Dump the ‘dit’

With many years of typographical experience, I finally feel compelled to rant about one of my pet typographical hates.

You see them everywhere if you look – even produced by so-called ‘respected’ design outfits. A couple of weeks ago, to my amazement, the BBC put out a programme title logo containing one.

I’m talking about the prime symbol, generic apostrophe or what I call the ‘dit’ [ ‘ ]. It should not to be confused with the apostrophe: [ ’ ]. The prime symbol represents feet (ft), arcminutes (am) and minutes (min). It has mathematical uses too, but I was never much good at that.

Once upon a time, when we used olde fashioned typewriters, we had an excuse, because that was all there was if we wanted to apply an apostrophe (punching a hole in the paper in the process).

Not any more. We’ve become so used to our software automatically inserting ‘typographer’s quotes’ that we don’t even notice when the odd ‘dit’ creeps in.

One of the late, great Steve Jobs’ gifts to us all is hidden away in the iPad and iPhone’s virtual keyboard. Try it if you have one. Hold down the apostrophe key and voilà – you’re presented with an array of options! Now, even you travelling bloggers have no excuse. So, unless you’re talking time, feet or formulae – please dump the ‘dit.’

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