Mend backward quotes

If, like me, you use single quotes for direct speech with auto-convert from dumb quotes to smart quotes switched on, then you’ll probably have encountered the problem of backward quotes. This occurs when you are editing previously typed text. If, during editing, you type a new letter immediately to the left of a smart open quote then the open quote is immediately converted to a close quote. Subsequently creating whitespace to the left of that quote will not restore its open-quote status – the conversion has occurred and that’s it. This is clearly not what you wanted. Of course, if you notice it, then you can immediately correct it. In some fonts, the difference is obvious. But in others the difference is subtle (eg Palatino Linotype), and I often end up with hundreds of these backward quotes in a mature manuscript.

So, you can avoid this by choosing a different font or by leaving smart quotes off until the manuscript is finished and then doing the transformation in one go. If neither of those solutions appeals to you, then you can correct the backward-quote errors in a mature manuscript with the Find and Replace box using RegEx (under ‘Find Options’).

use a Find string:


this finds the 3-character sequence: whitespace, smart close-quote, letter
and a Replace string:


this replaces the middle of the three found characters with a smart open quote

This works for me and saves loads of eye-straining and tedious checking. I don’t bother running it until a given document is close to being finished.

As ever with these things, RegEx is pretty powerful, so USE AT YOUR OWN RISK.