Get smarter with smart quotes


One of the ways in which computer keyboards are descendants of the manual typewriter is the agnostic straight apostrophe and quotation mark. Bending neither this way nor that, it has never looked quite right compared to its curly, or “smart” brethren, to which no keys are expressly dedicated.

Some computer programs, like Microsoft Word, have automatic ways to correct this as you type, but Sibelius does not. When you’re intent on composing music you may not care too much about such niceties, but with just a little bit of know-how you can spruce up your contractions and quotations.

After the fact

Whether it’s a score you created or one you’ve received from someone else, you may have a score that’s full of straight quotes. Easily beautify these with the shipping plug-in Smarten Quotes, found in Text > Plug-ins. You’ll first get a dialog asking whether you want to process the current score only, or a set of files within a folder.

Then, you’ll get a dialog with various options. Here are the ones I find most handy:

Smarten Quotes

There are various automatic options for ambiguous words as well as for angled quotes found in some languages. Running the plug-in will turn, for example, this:


into this:


Not very hard at all. If you’re looking for something similar in Finale, my friend Robert Puff has a solution over on his blog, Of Note.

As you type

If you would rather type your desired characters directly, you can do that. When typing in lyrics, Sibelius offers some built-in shortcuts:

To gettype (Mac)type (PC)

Note that these are not your computer operating system’s default keystrokes; the shortcuts included with Sibelius are pre-programmed via the Symbols word menu, which is used for the various lyric text styles. Curiously, these same shortcuts don’t extend to editing other types of text besides lyrics, at least not on Mac. If you want to, though, you could change that; see this recent blog post for instructions on how to go about editing Sibelius’s word menus.

You could, of course, use your OS’s keystrokes to enter these characters. Another option, suggested by my friend Doug LeBow, is to program shortcuts to your liking in a macro editor (like Keyboard Maestro or the mothballed but still functional QuicKeys).

However you enter these curly characters, you — and your scores — will be smarter for doing so.


  1. Neil Sands

    Bob Z will no doubt correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the plug-in to smarten quotes in Sibelius is one of his, and that he was also one of the programmers responsible for programming the facility in Microsoft Word.

  2. Bob Zawalich

    Yes, I wrote this plugin, back in 2004. It was originally called “Curly Quotes” and I wrote it hoping Daniel Spreadbury would agree to buy it from me to ship with Sibelius, which he ended up doing.
    It is long enough ago that I don’t remember if I did *all* the work on smart quotes in Microsoft Word, but I worked on the first versions of it (this was probably in 1986 or so).

    1. Philip Rothman

      A fascinating bit of history!

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