We all need to use them but hardly any of us know how to type them. Here is a brief guide of how to type smart quotes and accented characters (and dashes) on a Mac. If you’re on a Windows computer or some nerdy space machine, I’d recommend googling “keyboard commands for accented characters”. If you use a non-English keyboard, you probably already know how to find all the accented characters you need. Made by Jessica Hische for your enjoyment and enlightenment.
They are also known as “straight quotes”. Don’t use dumb quotes for quotations or apostrophes—the nerds will revolt. They’re also not the same as “prime marks”, which are a slightly slanty version of dumb quotes used for feet/inches and seconds/minutes. I think most people will forgive you though for using dumb quotes in place of primes, but if you’re making a book or something more permanent/formal than an email, do it right.
They are also known by the cuter term “curly quotes”. The Brits also occasionally call them “inverted commas”.
option + [
option + shift + [
option + ]
option + shift + ]
If you have the latest OS you probably discovered that you can also find accented characters by holding down a letter to reveal its spicier cousins (I discovered this myself many times when attempting to type “heeeeeyyyyy” in an iChat window.).
option + i then release and type the letter you want accented
option + e then release and type the letter you want accented
option + ` then release and type the letter you want accented
option + u then release and type the letter you want accented
option + n then release and type the letter you want accented
option + a for lowercase
shift + option + a for uppercase
option + c for lowercase
shift + option + c for uppercase
Here is a really long wikipedia article of how to use various dashes and below is my own shorthand version adapted from that information. There are more kinds of dashes than those mentioned here but these are the ones you’re most likely to use and confuse.
You know how to make this.
Used to break single words into parts (like when lines of type break within a word) or to join separate words into single words.
I love me some hand-lettering.
option + -
Used in dates to replace “to” or “and”. It can also be used to illustrate the relationship between two different words.
I was in jail from 1976–1978.
Mother–daughter beauty pageants make me uncomfortable.
I have a love–hate relationship with stretchy denim.
option + shift + -
For a break of thought similar to but stronger than a thought contained within parentheses. An em dash can also be used where a period (or full-stop) seems too strong but a comma seems too weak. At times it can have a similar vibe to a colon. Some non-Americans use en dashes in place of em dashes and add a space before and after them.
I once had to use the bus station bathroom—horrifying.
I tried a durian fruit once—tasted like hamburger pudding.
Like almost all of my procrastiwork, this came about because I had to explain / share something once and didn’t want to have to type it out again and again for other clients / people. I know you guys will give me a hard time that this guide only applies to US/English keyboards, but I made this for fun to help a few folks out and it took me about an hour. If you really feel strongly about having your kind of keyboard/language featured, download the HTML file, make the necessary adjustments and email it to me.
Have an international keyboard? A few folks have put together guides for you based on my original guide. Here’s one in German and here’s one in Italian!.