Distinguishing Quotes and Apostrophes for Braille

Quotes and apostrophes have always been an issue in braille transcription whichever English translation rules are in use, pre-UEB or UEB. This discussion assumes you have enabled the Smart Quotes option (in the AutoCorrect Options dialog) in Microsoft Word. DBT now handles smart double quotes automatically. It is the ambiguity of the single quote / apostrophe which sometimes presents issues.

When you type a quote in Word, whether single or double, Word runs a little background process (Smart Quotes) to determine its directionality and apply the appropriate Unicode character. For single quotes, Word applies an opening single quote (U+2018) at the beginning of a word and a closing single quote (U+2019) at the end of a word. It also applies the closing single quote between letters in the middle of a word.

As follows, there are simple ways of controlling what Word does with single quotes to ensure correct braille.

Rules and Tips

Expressions surrounded by single quotes translate with single quotes.

The smart closing quote/apostrophe in the middle of a word always translates correctly, so it needs no intervention, e.g., the apostrophe in can’t translates correctly without further work.

For an apostrophe at the beginning of a word (’Twas): although DBT knows a number of common usages, it is best to ensure these are the U+2019 closing single quote. To create a directional closing quote at the beginning of a word to show an apostrophe, type two single quotes, then delete the first.

To get a single opening quote, immediately following an opening double quote, you need to ensure the single quote has the correct directionality. To create a directional opening single quote immediately after an opening double quote, type the double quote, then space, then single quote, then remove the space.

For an apostrophe at the end of a word following an s: to braille correctly as an apostrophe these need to be the straight apostrophe character (U+2027). To get a straight apostrophe (U+0027): press Ctrl+Z (or Undo) immediately after typing the apostrophe and it will revert back to the straight version: U+0027.

Unusual quotes in the middle of words such as, “yes”es or ‘yes’es -- the single quote version of this example does not translate to braille at all well.

As always, the resulting braille needs to be proofed, but experimenting with and learning how DBT handles particular situations helps you to eliminate errors.

Notes: First, Duxbury would like to acknowledge that the techniques and suggestions in this topic came from Kathy Riessen, the Coordinator of Accessible Format Production for the South Australian School for the Vision Impaired. Second, even though directional quotes appear in these examples, they are not generally used in DBT Help.