Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Using Correct Apostrophes.

Using Correct Apostrophes

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 11, 2014)


As you learn in other WordTips, Word includes a feature that automatically converts straight quote marks to smart quotes—the type that pretty well match those used by professional typesetters. While this is great in most instances, it can be annoying when typing some types of words. For instance, you may want to type terms such as "the '80s" or "the '90s." Proper typography dictates that the apostrophes just before the numbers should curve down and to the left, but Word shows them as curving up and to the right. (The Word way would be fine if you were using the apostrophes to start out a full word or phrase.)

So how do you get the apostrophe to point in the proper direction? Granted, you could use the Symbol option from the Insert menu, or you could remember an arcane Alt sequence on the keypad, but there is an easier way. Type a character—any character—before you type the apostrophe. This fools Word into producing an apostrophe pointing in the proper direction. Now you can go back and delete the extraneous character. Word leaves the proper apostrophe and you can continue typing as desired.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13274) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Using Correct Apostrophes.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 1 + 8?

2014-10-14 11:25:08

John Wallis White

Calvin Wilson's tip is the same as mine, but succinct. Cool!

2014-10-13 09:54:07

Jennifer Thomas

I like to teach the Ctrl+Z method Dr. Bartolo mentioned because it works for all auto-format effects so it's a pretty useful concept.

2014-10-13 09:17:06

Calvin Wilson

I use Ctrl+'', that is, press Ctrl and type apostrophe twice. I must confess I don't know the particulars behind this shortcut, but I have used it for a number of years (through several versions of Word).

2014-10-13 07:19:47

John Wallis White

Easier still: hold down the Ctrl key and hit the apostrophe; nothing visual appears. Then release the Ctrl key and hit the apostrophe again; you get an apostrophe instead of a single open quote mark. Dr. Bartolo's Ctrl+Z gives us a straight apostrophe that typesetters use to notate feet. It works for inches, too. Just hit Ctrl+Z immediately after typing the double quote (Shift+apostrophe). You're welcome.

2014-10-11 14:09:40

Judith Stanton

Exactly right, Allen. I do the same thing. But those little buggers can sure be hard to spot. Judith, novelist and editor

2014-10-11 11:26:13

Word Prefect

The easiest thing is to type two apostrophes in a row and then delete the first.

2014-10-11 08:01:34

David Ferrier

Good tip, however I understand that when writing in dates in the form "the 80s" it is now OK to have no apostrophe at all before the "s".

2014-10-11 07:54:13

Dr. Bartolo

Or just hit Ctrl+Z immediately after typing the apostrophe, which will convert it to a straight apostrophe (as it should be).

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