The Apostrophe and Quotation Marks

In European-language text, or Japanese text that includes European-language elements, writers sometimes inadvertently substitute a prime symbol (′) for an apostrophe (’), or a double-prime symbol (″) for quotation marks (“”).

Prime symbols are correctly used to indicate units as follows:

2′3″ = 2 minutes and 3 seconds, or 2 feet 3 inches

When text is laid out, prime symbols will remain as prime symbols, even if the font is changed. The layout software will not automatically convert them to apostrophes and quotation marks–mistakes will not instantly be corrected. One can see many examples of this in magazine titles and company logos.



Although prime symbols are automatically converted into apostrophes and quotation marks when text is generated in the most recent versions of Microsoft Word and other similar software, in cases where the writer uses an older version of such software, or uses a word processor, the punctuation will still need to be carefully double checked.

For your reference, to purposely type an “opening quotation mark” and “closing quotation mark” using MS Word or other software:

On a Windows PC*
In the case of writing in English, if the shift key is pressed while the hyphen or equals key is pressed, the subsequent press of the quotation mark key will result in the creation of an “opening quotation mark.” The next press of the quotation mark key will create a “closing quotation mark.” The same is true when a space is inserted. In the case of incorporating English text with apostrophes or quotation marks into Japanese, you will need to use the character conversion function.

On a Macintosh*
If either bracket key (i.e. [ or ]) is pressed while pressing the option key, an “opening quotation mark” will be created. If the option and shift keys are pressed, a “closing quotation mark” will be created.
*May vary depending on computer operating system and software version.

I hope this helps writers ensure that their copy is laid out correctly.