Typographer's quotes in British English

The English version of typographer’s quotes (Preferences – Typography) uses double quotes for the primary quote and single for the secondary. This is the standard American form. In British English we very often use single quotes followed by double. Switching off this feature leaves only boring straight quotes.

It would be cool if an extra language could be added: English (British).

Hi Zack,

I’m actually British myself. :slight_smile: We’re a bit schizophrenic with regard to quotes in England, in fact. Speechmarks should, technically, be double quotes (which would be primary speechmarks). However, in much British publishing, speech is often surrounded by single speechmarks. One of my school teachers when I was in high school told me that this was done during the war to preserve ink… Hmm. I’m not sure how true that is!

Anyway, whether they are listed as primary or secondary has absolutely no impact on their function. Even if it did (which it doesn’t) you could change the quotes yourself by typing over them with your preferred quotes in the Preferences Typography panel.

But as I say, I’m British myself and this set-up works fine… And, as there is no difference in their function (that is, single quotes and double quotes work in exactly the same way in terms of which curly style gets substituted) it makes no difference anyway.

All the best,

Thanks, Keith.

After getting your tips I played around a bit more and found that if I use the default ‘English’ setting, then pressing the single quotes key in fact gives me a single curly quote. Perfect! But then what does the Preferences pane mean by primary and secondary? I’m glad it works, but it feels a bit less elegant than the rest of the app.

BTW, when you say schizophrenic, do you mean something like ambivalent or confused? I think it’s good to keep schizophrenic to mean a rather serious and distressing illness. Not to be PC, just to be sensitive to language.

But agin, thanks for helping me (indirectly) to sort this out.

I mean schizophrenic in the colloquial (cf. secondary, general usage: “a mentality or approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements” - from the OS X dictionary seeing as I can’t be bothered to consult my Collins or Oxford right now, though I’m sure they will tell you much the same thing). Not sure where you are from, but the term has long been used to denote inconsistencies where I come from (Midlands, Essex, London), and I don’t think that detracts in any way from anyone’s illness. No, I don’t mean ambivalent - I mean inconsistent, but was using the colloquial term because on a public forum I didn’t really expect every word to be weighed and balanced (this is the sort of pedantry up with which I will not put, said Churchill - or something like that :slight_smile: ).

As for the quotation interface, please see Mellel - I based the interface for entering them on that app, given that a lot of OS X users are familiar with it and Scrivener users suggested it as a basis when the feature was implemented. “Primary” and “secondary” just mean “double” and “single”, really, but I can’t very well call them “double” and “single” given that you could swap them around if you wanted and they are different in different languages.

Glad I helped, however indirectly.

Surprisingly accurate, actually (Though Churchill was talking about grammar, not word definition).

Always been one of my favourite quotes, along with “Nothing is so useless as a general maxim.” (Lord Macauley)

Interestingly, though, it seems we’ve all been duped by censors:

I take the point about this not being the place to weigh every word, Keith – I guess I got carried away by the ‘literature’ part of the name. But just to show where I’m coming from (apart from Newcastle, Oxford, London) here’s the Guardian style guide:

schizophrenia, schizophrenic
use only in a medical context, never to mean “in two minds”, contradictory, or erratic, which is wrong, as well as offensive to people diagnosed with this illness; schizophrenic should never be used as a noun

As to where all this started, I get it now, and I see the problem of what to call inverted commas, given that in many languages they are not that. I was just confused by the primary/secondary terms. For me, they imply hierarchy or sequence. But as we know, I’m a bit picky with words.

Love the app, though: haven’t opened Word in days.


Hi Anthony (almost said Zack, which I assume is from Will Self?),

My Collins has this as the second definition: “behaviour that seems to be motivated by contradictory or conflicting principles”. If I have any schizophrenic users I can only hope they aren’t offended. :slight_smile: And even though folk here do tend to be concerned with literature, there is no style guide for the forum! I think we’d all go crazy if we deliberated over every word written in the forum as well as on the (virtual) page, where the main effort should go. I will, however, pick out my words with more care and avoid colloquial usage when replying to you in future. (Hmm, there seems to be no emoticon for “that last sentence was good-natured even though it reads a little barbed”.)

As I say, with the primary/secondary thing I just went with the way Mellel does it, given that most of the users who wanted international quotes were familiar with the way Mellel does it (e.g. this post). If you have an idea for better terminology I’d be glad to hear it, as I do agree that “primary” and “secondary” isn’t ideal - just familiar to some users.

Anyway, glad you like Scrivener!

All the best,

Being picky with words … pandering to political correctness and its idiocies is something else. In any case psychiatry is coming to the conclusion that schizophrenic is no longer of any value as a medical term! It has proved impossible to define or diagnose reliably!

As to whether the “in two minds” definition is wrong, if people use it in that sense it is right. Enough of these language mavens who would stultify our language!


So, ignoring the provocation from China, here’s a constructive suggestion.

Mellel currently uses Open/Close Primary and Open/Close Alternative. So why not:

Open/Close and Open/Close Alternative


This would work for all languages and do away with the misleading primo and secondo business.

(yes, from Will Self – and I was so pleased to see him making a guest appearance in The Book Of Dave!)

Hmm… Not bad, I quite like it and may well go with it. I’d love to hear what others have to think, though, to see if anyone else has another way of clarifying it. For instance, speech vs inverted commas - but again, this is imprecise because it’s different in different languages, so, as I say, I may go with Open/Close and Open/Close Alternate.
Thanks for the suggestion and all the best,

Careful there Zack. One ignores anything from China at one’s peril!


What I say is no need to get paranoid. You’ll only end up depressed, or going psychotic trying to decide. End-users? We’re all a bunch of psychopaths anyway. 8)

Actually I don’t think it matters a hang. Anyone who’s puzzled can look it up here, now, and find the answer.