Straight vs Curly Apostrophe: Navigating the Twists and Turns

By Strategically AI. Reviewed by Rebecca Hey.
Updated December 5, 2023
4 minute read
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In the world of punctuation, the apostrophe holds a special place. But did you know there are two types of apostrophes? Yes, we're talking about the straight and curly apostrophes. While they might seem interchangeable, each has its own story and appropriate usage. Let's untangle the mystery of these punctuation marks and discover when and how to use them correctly.

The Straight Apostrophe: A Digital Legacy

The straight apostrophe, often referred to as the typewriter apostrophe, harks back to the days of typewriters and early digital fonts. It's a vertical mark (') that doubles as both an apostrophe and a single quotation mark.

A Product of Necessity

Originally, the straight apostrophe was born out of necessity. Early typewriters and computer keyboards lacked the space and capability to include separate keys for curly apostrophes and quotation marks. Thus, the straight apostrophe became a multipurpose tool, used for contractions, possessives, and quotations.

The Digital World's Preference

Even in the modern digital era, the straight apostrophe is commonly used in programming and coding because it's simpler and less likely to cause errors in code. It's also the default in many fonts and digital platforms, making it a familiar sight in emails, text messages, and online content.

The Curly Apostrophe: A Touch of Elegance

The curly apostrophe, also known as the smart apostrophe, is more stylistic and closely resembles the original handwritten form. It curves to the right (’), resembling a tiny '9' floating in the air.

A Reflection of Traditional Writing

The curly apostrophe is a nod to traditional handwriting, where apostrophes and quotation marks were written with a bit of a flourish. In printed materials like books, magazines, and formal documents, the curly apostrophe is often preferred for its aesthetic appeal and historical accuracy.

The Choice for Formal Writing

In formal writing, the curly apostrophe is generally favored because it maintains the distinction between apostrophes and single quotation marks. It adds a level of sophistication and clarity, especially in printed text where typography is an essential element of the overall presentation.

Choosing Between Straight and Curly Apostrophes

So, how do you decide which apostrophe to use? It often comes down to the context and medium of your writing. If you're coding, stick with the straight apostrophe to avoid syntax errors. For formal writing or published works, the curly apostrophe is your go-to for a polished look.

Consistency is Key

Regardless of your choice, consistency is crucial. Mixing straight and curly apostrophes in a single document can be jarring and may distract your reader. Choose one style and stick with it throughout your piece.


Understanding the difference between straight and curly apostrophes is more than a matter of grammatical correctness; it's about choosing the right tool for your message and medium. Whether you opt for the straightforwardness of the straight apostrophe or the elegance of the curly one, what matters is that your choice enhances the readability and aesthetic of your writing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use both types of apostrophes in a single document?

It's best to choose one style of apostrophe and use it consistently throughout a document to maintain a cohesive look.

Do curly apostrophes cause problems in digital writing?

Curly apostrophes can sometimes cause display issues in digital formats, especially in coding or when the font doesn't support them.

How can I insert a curly apostrophe in my document?

Most word processors automatically convert straight apostrophes to curly ones. You can also insert them manually using character maps or special character options.

Is one type of apostrophe more correct than the other?

Neither type is inherently more correct; it depends on the context and medium of your writing. Curly apostrophes are generally preferred in formal writing, while straight apostrophes are common in digital contexts.

Do all fonts support curly apostrophes?

Most modern fonts support curly apostrophes, but some older or more basic digital fonts might not.

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Rebecca Hey
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