Smart punctuation is an iOS feature that automatically turns certain generic punctuation marks like straight quotes into better ones like curly quotes. The problem is that smart punctuation doesn’t always play nice with the internet.
Digital typography has made making great looking fonts a lot easier. Now, how a character is positioned is dependent on the other characters around it, rather than each character taking up the same amount of space as they do in old typewriter-esque fonts like Courier.
In most fonts, there is a difference between the opening and closing quotation marks. See how, “when I quote this text,” the quotation marks are angled. It’s the same with the apostrophe in “it’s.” Also, if you enter two hyphens in a row with no space (- -) on iOS, they get converted to an actual em dash (—). Smart punctuation makes text look, well, smarter.
So, why might you want to turn it off?
Well, unfortunately, most computer engineers don’t really care how the text in their code files looks. And since it was computer engineers who built the underlying structures of the web and the character encoding that makes everything work, smart punctuation doesn’t always play nice with things like URLs. Smart punctuation also doesn’t always work well in situations where you’re limited to a certain number of characters like SMS messages.
The worst example I’ve ever run into was at an old website for which I used to write. For some ungodly reason, they used two hyphens in their URL structure for every article. Any time I tried to copy and paste one of their URLs into an email or message to send a friend, the two hyphens would get converted to an em dash and the URL would break.
If you’re regularly doing things like copying idiotic URLs with two consecutive hyphens or sending blocks of code through messaging apps (another situation where I’ve run into problems), then it might make your life easier to just turn smart punctuation off. The text won’t look as good, but realistically, most people won’t notice.
To turn smart punctuation off, all you have to do is go to Settings > General > Keyboard, and then turn off the “Smart Punctuation” toggle.
That’s it! Now, your ugly text messages at least won’t break code or URLs.