foot and inch marksUse straight quotes, not curly

Foot and inch marks—also known as minute and sec­ond marks or prime and dou­ble prime marks, de­pend­ing on what they’re la­bel­ing—are not curly. Use straight quotes for these marks.

WindowsMac OSHTML
'foot mark'''
"inch mark"""

“But back in straight and curly quotes, you told me to turn on smart quotes. So now, when I try to type foot and inch marks, they come out curly, not straight.” A fair point.

How to override smart quotes

WordType the foot or inch mark, which will come out curly, and then press the key com­mand for Undo. The curly mark will be­come straight.

PagesSame as Word—type the foot or inch mark, which will come out curly, and then press ⌘ + Z for Undo.

HTMLUse the ex­plicit code for the sin­gle straight quote (') and dou­ble straight quote (" or ")

Ty­pog­ra­phy purists would point out that proper foot and inch marks have a slight north­east-to-south­west slope to them. HTML purists would fur­ther point out that these char­ac­ters have their own es­cape codes (′ and ″). True, and you are wel­come to seek them out.

–118° 19′ 36.9″purity

What you will find is that even though these char­ac­ters are avail­able in sys­tem fonts, they are less com­mon in pro­fes­sional fonts (found in font rec­om­men­da­tions). So as a rule, straight quotes are the most re­li­able tools for the job.

–118° 19’ 36.9”wrong
–118° 19' 36.9"close enough

You can ital­i­cize the straight quotes if you want an even bet­ter ap­prox­i­ma­tion of sloped foot and inch marks.

–118° 19' 36.9"bonus points

Tread care­fully if foot and inch marks ap­pear within quoted material.

She’s 6’ 10”.”wrong
"She's 6’ 10”."hopeless
She’s 6' 10".”right
by the way
  • Why would pro­fes­sional fonts omit these char­ac­ters? Foot and inch marks have never had a di­rect key short­cut on ei­ther Mac or Win­dows, nor have they been part of any stan­dard char­ac­ter-set spec­i­fi­ca­tion, so they have gone ob­scure in the dig­i­tal era. But they are start­ing to reappear.

  • If you’re a purist whose cho­sen font is miss­ing true foot and inch marks, there’s noth­ing wrong with us­ing the marks from a dif­fer­ent font. Match the height and weight as best you can. No one will know.

  • A non­break­ing space in the mid­dle of a foot-and-inch mea­sure­ment will pre­vent an awk­ward line­break like 6'
    , and en­sure that you get 6' 10".

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