Typographic Characters

Typographic Characters

Your otherwise-humble authors are typographic snobs, so we think everyone should use the curly quotes and the correct kinds of dashes. Why? Because professional typographers always use them, and they’ve become synonymous with professionalism. And they’re so easy to use that you have no excuse not to use them. Figure shows the typographic and typewriter characters that you’ll care about most often. It also shows shortcuts for quotes and dashes in Windows and on a Mac.

Figure: Typographic and Typewriter Characters


Typographic Character

Typewriter Character

Em dash

- - (two hyphens)

En dash

- (single hyphen)



Single quotes



Double quotes



Quotes and dashes

One of the first things you should do in QuarkXPress is configure it to type in the professional characters for you automatically. In addition, make sure QuarkXPress is set to convert quotes and double hyphens immediately on import.

Entering curly quotes

To set up automatic curly quotes, choose QuarkXPressPreferences on the Mac or EditPreferences in Windows, or press Option+Shift+z+Y or Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Y, and activate the Interactive pane from the list on the left side of the Preferences dialog box (see Figure). Smart Quotes should be checked by default; if it isn’t, be sure to check the Smart Quotes option so QuarkXPress will convert quotes as you type. If you’re not publishing in English, you can select a different set of quote characters through the Format pop-up menu, also shown in Figure.

Click To expand
Figure: Use the Interactive pane of the Preferences dialog box to set up conversion of keyboard quotes.

For many preferences, to make them affect all QuarkXPress layouts, you have to make sure that no project is open before you change the preferences. Otherwise, the changed preferences will apply only to that project. But any preferences set in the Interactive pane of the Preferences dialog box affect all layouts, whether or not a project was open when you set those preferences.

Converting quotes and dashes

In text files that you import, you can ensure that QuarkXPress converts the quotes and, yes, even the double hyphens to dashes, by checking the Convert Quotes box in the Get Text dialog box. You can access the Get Text dialog box by choosing FileGet Text, or by pressing z+E or Ctrl+E. Once checked, you don’t have to keep checking the Convert Quotes check box; QuarkXPress leaves the box checked for all future imports until, of course, you uncheck it. Figure shows how the Get Text dialog box looks with the Convert Quotes box checked.

Click To expand
Figure: Check the Convert Quotes box to import quotes in the favored typographic style.

When a double hyphen converts to an em dash, you get a breaking em dash — it can separate from its preceding text and appear as the first character in a line. Most editors prefer not to start a line with a dash, so they manually enter nonbreaking em dashes. Figure lists the keyboard shortcuts for quotes and nonbreaking (and breaking) em dashes in Windows and on a Mac.

Figure: Shortcuts for Quotes and Dashes


Mac Shortcut

Windows Shortcut

Open double quote ( “ )


Shift+Alt+[ or Alt+0147

Close double quote ( ” )


Shift+Alt+] or Alt+0148

Open French


Ctrl+Alt+[ or Alt+0171 double quote ( « )

Close French


Ctrl+Alt+] or Alt+0187 double quote ( » )

Open single quote ( ‘ )



Close single quote ( ’ )



Breaking em dash ( — )

Option+Shift+– (hyphen)

Ctrl+Shift+= or Alt+0151

Nonbreaking en dash ( – )

Option+– (hyphen)

Ctrl+= or Alt+0150

Nonbreaking em dash ( — )




Ligatures are linked-together characters in many higher-end publications (magazines, books, and the like) where you find the combination of f and i typeset not as fi but as fi. Such a combination avoids having the dot on the i get in the way of the top curve or the bar of the f. In QuarkXPress for Mac, you also have automatic access to an fl ligature, an ffi ligature, and an ffl ligature.

Platform Differences 

QuarkXPress for Windows doesn’t support ligatures. When you open a Mac file that has ligatures into QuarkXPress for Windows, QuarkXPress translates the ligatures back to regular characters. If you move the file back to the Mac, the ligatures reappear. There’s a slight chance that such translations could affect the line length of text in your layout, so double-check to make sure you don’t gain or lose a line or two if you try this.


If you’re working in a cross-platform publishing environment, save yourself (and your colleagues) some headaches: Don’t use ligatures.

Figure shows some ligatures. Other ligatures than these occur in some fonts, but the Mac version of QuarkXPress automatically handles only these four. For others (assuming that the font supports other ligatures), you have to enter the ligature code manually (see Figure).

Click To expand
Figure: Ligatures up close (left column); italic versions appear at the right.

To use ligatures consistently with a Mac in all your publications, first make sure no projects are open. Then follow these steps:

  1. Open the Preferences dialog box.

    To get there, choose QuarkXPressPreferences or press Option+Shift+z+Y.

    The Preferences dialog box opens.

  2. Use the Character pane to set up your treatment of ligatures.

    Figure shows the pane with the ligature section highlighted.

    Click To expand
    Figure: On the Mac, check the Ligatures box in the Character pane to enable ligatures.

Figure: Shortcuts for Ligatures


Mac Shortcut

Windows Shortcut



not supported



not supported


no shortcut

not supported


no shortcut

not supported


When you use the codes in Figure, you actually enter the ligature character manually; when QuarkXPress generates the ligatures for you, it remembers the actual letters in your layout but substitutes the ligature characters for them both onscreen and when printing. Note that these coded ligature characters may appear in your Find dialog box as a square. That’s okay: QuarkXPress still searches for the actual character. Also note that using codes to generate ligatures, rather than using the QuarkXPress automatic ligature feature, causes the spell checker to flag words with the coded-in ligatures as suspect words. The bottom line: For the vast majority of cases, don’t use those codes to create ligatures. It’s not worth the hassle.

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