Embracing Simplicity: Why I’ve Given Up on Smart Quotes–and Other Typographic Niceties

Before you begin, for the interested, here’s a reference that explains what smart and dumb quotes are:
““Smart quotes” are the ideal form of quotation marks and apostrophes, and are commonly curly or sloped. “Dumb quotes,” or straight quotes, are a vestigial constraint from typewriters when using one key for two different marks helped save space on a keyboard.“

As someone deeply involved in communication, I have deliberately opted for simplicity by using dumb quotes and dumb typography and avoiding the intricate details of these typographic enhancements. Here’s why:

The Typographic Toolbox

Smart typography provides tools that aim to improve readability and visual appeal:

  • Em dashes (—) can create pauses.
  • Indicating ranges with style en dashes (–) subtly differentiate values,
  • and ellipses (…) effectively show omission or lingering thoughts.

While these elements undoubtedly enhance the sophistication of writing, they also introduce complications in settings that often rely on basic typographic conventions.

For instance, CI/CD environments, CLIs, Diff/Merge tools, Version Control Systems, and other developer tools may not be compatible with typography–A terminal will be much happier with "a quoted text like this...", than "a smart quoted text like that...".

The Challenge of Going Digital

With an array of platforms and software tools, such as IDEs and content management systems like Ghost and Jekyll, simplicity and consistency are often valued more than precision.

These platforms often automatically convert dumb typography to smart typography.

So, if I type "I enjoy typography..." the published HTML on my blog will display as "I enjoy typography...".

So, all this time, I’ve been fighting over nothing:

  • My editing tools can transform dumb typography into smart typography.
  • And my development tooling would instead prefer dumb typography all the time.

In short, using dumb typography everywhere is (ironically) a smart way for me to move forward.

Furthermore, all the other AI-powered spell-checking tools (yes, Grammarly, I’m looking at you!) default to dumb quotes no matter how hard I try to convince them otherwise: Each time I make a change in my text, rewriting with an AI-suggested clarification, I have to switch back to smart quotation marks manually.

Besides, in programming and code comments, straight quotes are the norm, mostly because they are what’s being used in the context of programming languages. Mixing typographic quotes in code could lead to syntax errors or unintended behavior. Therefore, using straight quotes in code and possibly documentation facilitates smoother collaboration and reduces the overhead of handling formatting discrepancies.

I’m so frustrated with battling against these tools. I just want to focus on creating content instead of constantly grappling with software over apostrophes and quotation marks. – I surrender. I. Give. Up!

Focusing on What Matters

When I think about what makes my technical blog valuable, it’s not about using fonts or styles. Instead, it is about effectively communicating complex ideas clearly and accurately to my audience.

The people who read my blog seek insights and solutions to problems, so the content’s substance matters more to them than any fancy formatting. This understanding has led me to simplify my typography approach, focusing on functionality and making sure things, like quotes, simple dashes, and basic ellipses, are easy to read.

Simplifying for Clarity and Ease

Choosing simplicity isn’t about working within the limitations of tools; it’s a conscious decision to prioritize clear communication and compatibility. Above all else, I want my writing process to be smoother to produce content * efficiently*.

A Broader Perspective: Valuing Practicality

Opting for a style reflects a more significant principle I believe in:

Prioritizing practicality over perfection.

I don’t look at things from the ivory tower–I am not a purist. If anything, I consider myself a pragmatist.

In writing, what truly matters is not how fancy your presentation looks. It is how well your message is understood accurately and clearly. By prioritizing the essentials, I allow myself to delve deeper into things that matter.


The shift from typography towards a simplified approach signifies a broader understanding of the critical elements that drive effective communication. While my appeal of typography remains, my sanity comes first 😄. Embracing simplicity enables me to focus on creating content that informs, captivates, and enlightens without being bogged down by formatting intricacies.

Yes, I may have gone on a bit about something some might not consider significant… However, I needed to get that off my chest.

Until next time (dot dot dot)… May the source be with you 🦄.

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