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Turning Off Word's Second Guessing with Quote Marks

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Turning Off Word's Second Guessing with Quote Marks.

Andrew often needs, in the course of editing and writing, to put a digit or two in quotation marks in order to quote or cite it. He works in the UK where the preferred system of quoting is for single quote marks, with doubles for quotes within quotes. (The US prefers the opposite.) If Andrew types a single quote mark, then, say, the number 92, and type a closing quote mark, that opening quote mark immediately flips and becomes an initial apostrophe. This happens because Word thinks Andrew is typing a calendar year without the 19 (as in 1992). He is looking for a way to not have this "flip" happen.

Assuming that you have the correct language set for your document (UK English as opposed to US English), the flipping is occurring because AutoFormat is making a wrong assumption about what you are doing. The solution to such guessing is actually easier than you think: just use Ctrl+Z. When Word changes the opening quote mark, immediately press Ctrl+Z and the AutoFormat change is undone.

If you prefer not to have to press Ctrl+Z in those instances where AutoFormat guesses wrong, then you should consider turning off the Smart Quotes feature in AutoFormat and instead using the keyboard shortcuts for inserting just the quotes you want. You can discover these shortcuts by choosing Insert | Symbol and looking at the Special Characters tab. Near the bottom you will see the shortcut keys for all the quote marks. You can also find the shortcuts at this Word MVP page:


WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (449) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Turning Off Word's Second Guessing with Quote Marks.

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Comments for this tip:

Lulu    02 Nov 2014, 14:31
I didn't see this posted anywhere when I was searching for a solution to changing the direction of quotation marks in Microsoft Word (open versus closed), so I thought I would post the solution I stumbled upon:

Most of the time with smart quotes, the quotation marks will face the right direction. But sometimes, as when ending a sentence with a long dash or em dash (—), the quotes will be facing the wrong direction. To change the direction of your quotes as you type, follow these simple steps: hold down the Control key and press the Quotation Mark key, then let go. This indicates to Word that you want to change the direction of the following quotes from whatever the default is. Then proceed as normal by either pressing the Quotation Mark key by itself for single quotes, or holding down the Shift key and pressing the Quotation Mark key for double quotes. Hope this helps someone. Also, FYI, I have Microsoft Office 2013.
Lukman Clark    05 Sep 2014, 16:46
There is a much easier solution to using British/Australian quotation styles. Click on the MS Office logo in the upper left corner; click on Word Options. On the first page you should see Language Settings. Generally, U.S. English is the default but you can add UK English to the list on the right-hand side. Then when you wish to have your document set up and edited in this style, you can change the "Primary Editing Style" at the bottom of this settings window. I tried it and it works for outside and inside quotes with no difficulty.

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