Death to typewriters

Part I.
Typography is for everyone

Marcin Wichary
Feb 9, 2015 · 4 min read

Even if we can output nuanced typography on our modern computers, the input method for words — even on touch screens — remains very simple and typewriter-like. We want to do as much as possible to give people and their stories beautiful type without them needing to use secret shortcuts, memorize Unicode tables, copy/paste obscure glyphs, or even know much about typography to begin with. Here’s some things we do:

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Some of Medium’s automatical typographic replacements

Em dashes. We automatically replace hyphens with em dashes (surrounded by hair spaces for just the right feel) as you type.

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En dashes. If you put a hyphen in between numbers, don’t replace it with an em dash — but rather with a slightly shorter, more appropriate range dash (en dash).

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Quotes. We replace regular “dumb” quotes with proper opening or closing quotation marks. (We support single and double quotes.)

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Primes. If a quote is typed in after a number, we replace it with a prime — meaning feet or inches — instead of a “curly” quote. We also understand that vulgar fractions are parts of numbers.

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Ellipses and other replacements. We replace three dots with an ellipsis glyph… and do a few other as-you-type substitutions (for example dash + dash + triangle bracket become an arrow).

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Ordered and unordered lists. We automatically convert what looks like a bunch of ordered or unordered items into properly formatted lists.

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Copy and paste. All of the automatic replacements also happen when you copy and paste text from other places. We understand that Medium might not be the place you start your writing journey, even if it happens to be the place where you finish it.

Code. The only place where typewriter typography is welcome is source code; we cease any character replacements if you’re typing into code blocks.

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Hanging quotes. When you open your paragraph with a quote, we automatically hang it outside, supporting various quotes used by different languages. Implementing this feature was a traumatic moment for some.

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Non-breakable spaces. To account for some languages that put spaces before or after punctuation (e.g. French), we quietly replace those spaces with non-breakable spaces so that the punctuation won’t travel alone to the next line — or stay detached on the previous one.

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Keyboard shortcuts. For those well-versed in typographical nuances, we make sure the common keyboard shortcuts work: on a Mac, for example, you can hold a letter to show the letter variant menu, you can use all sorts of Alt shortcuts for rarer glyphs, and we make sure we don’t override the Command+Control+Space little typography/emoji menu.

And, we also support Polish S.

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