A Typography Pet Peeve
The difference between an apostrophe, prime and quotation marks
A little pet peeve of mine is the misuse of apostrophes, primes and quotation marks. At one of my first jobs after college I learned a lot about typography. My boss really stressed the importance of the proper usage of type, spacing, leading and characters. Every time I see these characters used incorrectly, I’m tempted to find a way to fix them.
An apostrophe should be used to indicate possession (ex. June’s) or when letters/numbers are omitted, such as in a contraction (ex. don’t). Primes are used to indicate a specific unit, such as feet or inches. Quotation marks should be used at the beginning and end of a quotation.
When apostrophes and quotation marks are used correctly, they should have a curve or slant. A prime (showing inches) or double prime (showing feet) will be straight when used correctly.
See example below showing the correct usage of an apostrophe and quotation marks:
See example below showing the correct usage of a prime (inches) and double prime (feet):
So, please don’t use a prime when you should be using an apostrophe!
Of course, the real reason to use proper grammar and punctuation is to make sure your message is clear and that the reader understands what you mean. You can spend a lot of time on making something look pretty but if the message isn’t clear, you’ve failed. I want to provide my clients with good looking graphics that say everything they are meant to say with no confusion.