Typographical Notes#

novelWriter has some support for typographical symbols that are not usually easily available in many text editors. This includes for instance the proper unicode quotation marks, dashes, ellipsis, thin spaces, etc. All these symbols are available from the Insert menu, and via keyboard shortcuts. See Insert Shortcuts.

This chapter provides some additional information on how novelWriter handles these symbols.

Special Notes on Symbols#

This section contains additional notes on the available special symbols.

Dashes and Ellipsis#

With the auto-replace feature enabled (see Auto-Replace as You Type), multiple hyphens are converted automatically to short and long dashes, and three dots to ellipsis. The last auto-replace can always be reverted with the undo command Ctrl+Z, reverting the text to what you typed before the automatic replacement occurred.

In addition, “Figure Dash” is available. The Figure Dash is a dash that has the same width as the numbers of the same font, for most fonts. It helps to align numbers nicely in columns when you need to use a dash in them.

Single and Double Quotes#

All the different quotation marks listed on the Quotation Mark Wikipedia page are available, and can be selected as auto-replaced symbols for straight single and double quote key strokes. The settings can be found in Preferences.

Ordinarily, text wrapped in quotes are highlighted by the editor. This is meant as a convenience for highlighting dialogue between characters. This feature can be disabled in Preferences if this feature isn’t wanted.

The editor distinguishes between text wrapped in regular straight double quotes and the user-selected double quote symbols. This is to help the writer recognise which parts of the text are not using the chosen quote symbols. Two convenience functions in the Format menu can be used to re-format a selected section of text with the correct quote symbols.

Single and Double Prime#

Both single and double prime symbols are available in the Insert menu. These symbols are the correct symbols to use for unit symbols for feet, inches, minutes, and seconds. The usage of these is described in more detail on the Wikipedia Prime page. They look very similar to single and double straight quotes, and may be rendered similarly by the font, but they have different codes. Using these correctly will also prevent the auto-replace and dialogue highlighting features misunderstanding their meaning in the text.

Modifier Letter Apostrophe#

The auto-replace feature will consider any right-facing single straight quote as a quote symbol, even if it is intended as an apostrophe. This also includes the syntax highlighter, which may assume the first following apostrophe is the closing symbol of a single quoted region of text.

To get around this, an alternative apostrophe is available. It is a special Unicode character that is not categorised as punctuation, but as a modifier. It is usually rendered the same way as the right single quotation marks, depending on the font. There is a Wikipedia article for the Modifier letter apostrophe with more details.


On export with the Build Manuscript tool, these apostrophes will be replaced automatically with the corresponding right hand single quote symbol as is generally recommended. Therefore it doesn’t really matter if you only use them to correct syntax highlighting.

Special Space Symbols#

A few variations of the regular space character is supported. The correct typographical way to separate a number from its unit is with a thin space. It is usually 2/3 the width of a regular space. For numbers and units, this should in addition be a non-breaking space, that is, the text wrapping should not add a line break on this particular space.

A regular space can also be made into a non-breaking space if needed.

All non-breaking spaces are highlighted with a differently coloured background to make it easier to spot them in the text. The colour will depend on the selected colour theme.

The thin and non-breaking spaces are converted to their corresponding HTML codes on export to HTML format.