Every once in a while, I run across a Web page on which apostrophes are shown as a question mark. (Don?t you like the way it looks?) It certainly looks odd, and I wondered what the problem was.

It turns out that “smart quotes” from Microsoft Word are the culprit. When somebody writes a quotation mark in Word, it automagically converts to the “smart” version, even if the single quote is used as an apostrophe. If you then export your work as HTML or copy the text to paste into a blog page, the result looks downright stupid, as if the author doesn’t know what an apostrophe is. These fancy quotation marks (both the full and single variety) use codes that don’t properly translate into fonts displayed on browsers which aren’t also Microsoft products. A bunch of use use browsers like Firefox, Safari, Opera and such. The standard fonts of these browsers don’t handle the out-of-bounds character codes of smart quotes and some other characters, too.

HTML is the coding for the World Wide Web, and is supposed to be as standard as possible. If you are writing a blog, you need to pay attention after pasting from Word. Fix those apostrophes!

If your school job includes maintaining a Web site, it is your job to make the result look the best it can. You don’t want people to think you, an educator, are a dope.

There is a tool written by John Walker who is the guy behind Autodesk, Inc. and co-developer of AutoCAD, written in Perl, that can help you. Check it out.

The article at the following link also shows that corporate gurus can be cool, too.