Punctuation and Special Characters in InDesign

At first glance you may think punctuation is a subject better suited for a copywriting article. This may be true, but what if you are freelancing and you are the designer and the proof reader. Just because the copy came from your client doesn’t mean they ran a spell check or even took notice of their punctuation and grammar. I know that I’ve made suggestions or even asked the occasional question about copy that didn’t make sense. Chances are if you don’t get it, the audience probably won’t get it either.

Now don’t misunderstand, I’m not implying that you take on the role of copywriter and rewrite the copy. But knowing something about punctuation and grammar will make you more valuable to your client. Here’s one of my favorite sites for grammar with articles on the proper use of abbreviations, quote marks, special characters and more. Mignon Fogarty (aka Grammar Girl) also explains the correct usage of words and their meaning and has some great insight about why we choose the words we use and the history behind them.

Check out the Grammar Girl section on QuickandDirtyTips.com.


One of my favorite (and often funny) copywriting problems is the misuse of quote marks or should I say the misuse of inch and foot marks. It’s easy to remedy this problem - set the default to typographer’s quote marks and avoid having to remember to do a find/change.

Open up the Preferences fly-out menu under the Edit drop down menu and navigate to the Type pane, then click the first box under Type Options that says Use Typographer’s Quotes. It’s that easy!

Here’s an entertaining book that Bethany Keeley’s compiled from her blog - "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks. Bethany does a great job of showcasing signage from around the country that misuse the often misunderstood quotation marks. 

Special Characters

Knowing and remembering the correct key command for special characters can be difficult, that’s where the Glyphs Menu comes in. Open up your Glyphs panel (Alt+Shift+F11) to view everything that’s available in your font. At the top of the panel you can see what you’ve used recently – very handy. Below that area there’s a search bar, and a drop down to help you hone in on what exactly you’re looking for, like math symbols, currency or punctuation. At the bottom of the panel you’re able to choose your font and specify the weight (Light, Semi-bold or Bold.)


With freelancers having to wear so many hats these days, it’s nice to have some knowledge about correct punctuation, grammar and special characters. These may seem like small things, but I assure you, your client will appreciate it and the readability of your text will be that much clearer for your reader to understand.

Debra Novara's love affair with design and the outdoors was truly realized when just two weeks after graduation she landed in Denver with nothing more than a backpack, her portfolio and a pair of skis. After 20+ years of designing for the Denver market (and skiing every resort) she returned to Michigan where she continues to work in the design industry as a member of the NHLS Marketing team. In addition to receiving awards for her design work, Debra has taught design courses at universities, served on multiple design panels and is recognized as one of the founding members of the AIGA-Denver Chapter.

Categories: Adobe, Artist's Palette
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Debra Novara, Branding ManagerDebra Novara

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