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: Smart Quotes are Incorrectly Replaced.

Smart Quotes are Incorrectly Replaced

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 4, 2017)

Matt has a long document in which he needs to convert straight quotes to smart quotes. The original document used straight quotes, and Matt used the Find and Replace method (described in other issues of WordTips) to do the conversion. The problem is that in about 20% of the cases, Word replaced the smart quotes incorrectly. Sometimes he got opening quotes where closing quotes should have been, and vice versa.

Other Word users reported that they ran into the same problem and concluded that perhaps the Find and Replace method is not the best way to make the changes. Instead, these users rely on the AutoFormat feature in Word. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the document in which you need to change the quotes.
  2. Choose AutoCorrect Options from the Tools menu. Word displays the AutoCorrect dialog box.
  3. Make sure the AutoFormat tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The AutoFormat tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box.

  5. Make sure that the only check box that is selected is the Straight Quotes with Smart Quotes check box.
  6. Click OK.
  7. Choose AutoFormat from the Format menu. Word displays the AutoFormat dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  8. Figure 2. The AutoFormat dialog box.

  9. Click OK.

Word then goes through and makes the changes to the quotes, as you directed. If you still get some of the quotes that are wrong, or if your original document had a mix of straight quotes and incorrect smart quotes, then you can use the Find and Replace tool in Word. Follow these steps:

  1. Press Ctrl+H to display the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.
  2. Click the More button, if it is available. (See Figure 3.)
  3. Figure 3. The Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.

  4. Make sure the Use Wildcards check box is selected.
  5. In the Find What box, enter the following: ^0148<
  6. In the Replace With box, enter the following: ^0147
  7. Click Replace All.

What you did here was to replace any closing quotes (^0148) that occur at the beginning of a word (<) with the opening quote (^0147). You should repeat the above steps, but replace closing apostrophes at the beginning of a word (^0146<) with opening apostrophes (^0145), then replace opening quotes at the end of a word (^0147>) with a closing quote (^0148), and finally opening apostrophes at the end of a word (^0145>) with closing apostrophes (^0146).

If this still fails to give the right results, you may need to analyze what characters are surrounding your quotes and apostrophes. If you, for instance, have a space before what should be a closing quote, then Word will more than likely assume that the quote should be an opening quote. If this is the case, you may need to make some edits to your document to get rid of the spaces that are causing Word to misinterpret your document.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (334) 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: Smart Quotes are Incorrectly Replaced.

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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