How to Mass Replace Single Opening Quotation Marks to Apostrophes for Contractions

I’ve been researching on ways how to change a single opening quotation mark to an apostrophe, but to no avail. It would really help a lot of Filipino editors and authors, especially writers like me who use yun, wag, no before, not knowing that these are misspelled.

It’s okay if you write this way. We all learn. Hehe. Learned about this in 2016.

I have searched the entire internet, only to waste three hours finding for a nonexistent solution. There are, however, answers to “how to change straight quotes to curly quotes,” but it’s not what I’m looking for.

After a few tries, I found a way. Yay! But first, let me explain why you need to replace single quotation marks with apostrophes anyway.

The Apostrophe and the Single Quotation Mark

Apostrophes are used not only to indicate possession (e.g., Rika’s cat, Rii’s notes) but also to replace omitted letters. For example in Yo, sis, Ally is singin’, the apostrophe replaces letter g in the word singing.

You use single quotation marks depending on the style you prefer. Most American English novels use Chicago, so dialogues are enclosed in double quotation marks, and dialogues within dialogues are enclosed in single quotation marks. For British English, it’s the other way around. Placement of punctuation marks is another topic.

Apostrophes and quotation marks, whether single or double, are curled. Straight quotes are only used to denote symbols for minutes, seconds, feet, and inches.

Unfortunately, WordPress automatically converts apostrophes to single opening quotation marks when the letters at the beginning of a word are removed (you can check my previous blog to see some examples). Wattpad also uses straight quotes as a default, which is fine, as in typewriters. However, if you plan on professionally publishing your material, following the correct punctuation is highly recommended.

Steps on Mass Replacing Single Opening Quotation Marks to Apostrophes

Disclaimer: I have only tested this on Microsoft Word 2013, but higher versions should work as well.

Step 1: Open your file and click File > Options > Proofing > AutoCorrect Options.

Step 2: Click AutoFormat As You Type and uncheck “Straight quotes” with “smart quotes”

Step 3: In the same window, click the other AutoFormat tab and also uncheck “Straight quotes” with “smart quotes”

Step 4: Click OK twice. Now here’s the tricky part. Go to Insert > Symbol > More Symbols.

Step 5: Look for the Right Single Quotation Mark symbol. It should be curled, facing left. (Trivia: If you look for the apostrophe, it’s actually straight. Weird, right?) Don’t copy from the apostrophes in your word document. It will automatically read as an opening single quotation mark, and your efforts will be futile.

Then, click Insert.

Step 6: The symbol should appear in your document. Cut it by pressing Ctrl + X

Step 7: Press Ctrl + F to open the Navigation tab. Click the down arrow and then Replace.

Step 8: In the Replace tab, Click More. So you wouldn’t replace the word existing within another word (for example, yun in yunit), you have to check Match case and Find whole words only.

Step 9: Type the misspelled word in the Find what box. Then, paste the symbol by pressing Ctrl + V in the Replace with box before typing the correctly spelled word. Then, click Replace All.

Sample Result:

Limitations

  1. Because you clicked Match case, you have to do this another time for capitalized words.
  2. Don’t do this with no and to, as in the contraction for ano and ito, especially if you have the existing English words no and to in your file.
  3. And to preserve realism, review texts and private messages and revert the changes. Rarely do people type ’yong and ’wag in messages.

Let me know if these worked for you.

Sources

Editorial Style: Pronunciation Spelling

As an editor, I was trained not to edit dialogues to retain the realism of whatever language the character speaks, only recasting for clarity if necessary and changing obvious typographical errors. However, I make exceptions when the whole manuscript is problematic, meaning even the narrative paragraphs are written poorly. For example, my style is to avoid “kinda” in narrative paragraphs, allow them in dialogues, and consider retaining when the narrative is told in the first-person point of view.

I am considering this style in writing Filipino novels—that is, strictly using mayroon, kailan, baywang, tainga in narrative paragraphs and allowing their pronunciation spellings meron, kelan, bewang, tenga, respectively, in dialogues. Some Filipino novels, however, use the correct spelling consistently, even in dialogues. There are times that they feel unnatural to me, especially when the characters have quirky personalities. If the novel is set in the fifties or sixties, then terms may be spelled formally as they are.

What do you think?