Why I hate curly-quotes

Curly-quotes are the bane of my blogging existence, like a never-ending supply of pubes caught between my blog-teeth. Why? Because if I blog your story and paste in an excerpt with a curly-quote, or an em-dash, or an accent character, or any other non-ASCII characters, the RSS feed for Boing Boing breaks, and then I get tons of cranky email from people who want it fixed. Then I have to haul out the XML validator and slowly open, edit and save the offending post(s), until all the non-ASCII characters are g0nezored. I blame Robin Williams, the designer whose "Non-Designer's Design Handbook" convinced a generation of geeks that their type would look suave if it came with em-dashes and curly-quotes, and caused us all to suffer through email, Usenet posts, and blog-entries where strange dipthongs are inserted in place of honest inch- and foot-marks, rendering the text unreadable except in whatever proprietary tool it was created in. It's bad enough that we have three mutually exclusive line-break conventions, do we really need to migrate a bunch of centuries-old typesetters' conventions into our ASCII paradise?

Sure, there are some good reasons to go non-ASCII (for example, if you're writing in Hebrew, or even French), but the tools just aren't there yet, especially as applied to curly-quotes and em-dashes and all of Ms. Williams's precious non-ASCII punctuation.

I've been hashing this out with Nelson Minar, and he's posted a pretty good counterpoint to this on his blog.



(Thanks, Nelson!)