Microsoft Word making weird characters in your blog or email?

December 8, 2007 by Diane Vigil in

So you've crafted a new article, carefully copied it into your blog, pressed the Publish button, and then visited the home page to check your work — only to find weird characters strewn throughout your blog article.

Weird characters in my blog You may find characters such as those in the image to the left, or question marks or other gibberish characters such as strange accented A's strewn about your article, but whatever they are, theyÁ areÁ notÁ welcomeÁ.

Know what I mean? <grin>

What's happened here?

A closer inspection reveals that the weird characters have replaced quotation marks, apostrophes and dashes. One cause of this is writing in Microsoft Word before copy/pasting into WordPress — if Word is set to use "smart quotes" (curly quotes). Unfortunately, while Microsoft Word is great for writing, it's a word processing program — meaning that it's output is intended for print. And printer characters such as smart quotes have no direct Web translation, so they get replaced by weird characters. (Of course, if you visit the site in Microsoft Internet Explorer, you will see less of these characters; I guess Microsoft tries to "protect" their users from seeing what is happening). However, not everyone uses Internet Explorer and the articles are littered with the weird characters.

Weird characters in Email

I mention WordPress, the famous blog software, because WordPress converts text to web coding, so that your output can be displayed properly on a website.

But the same thing could happen with email. If you write email with formatting such as special fonts, bold, italics or colors or you insert images into your email, your email program is assisting you by converting your input into "HTML email" — meaning Web-ified coding that supports anything more than plain text in a typewriter-style font.

Unfortunately, email programs are generally even less standardized (or up to date) than browsers, the programs we use to surf the Internet — and, if you've ever received an email containing trademark symbols and other gibberish in place of apostrophes (or similar gibberish), you now know how that came to be: copy/pasting from Microsoft Word without turning off "smart quotes".

How to turn off Smart Quotes in Microsoft Word

You can fix this on future blog articles and email by turning off smart quotes in Word:

  • On the Tools menu:
    click AutoCorrect Options, and then click the AutoFormat As You Type tab
  • Under Replace as You Type:
    select or clear the "Straight quotes" with "smart quotes" check box

Then, before you cut/paste into WordPress, make sure there are no curly quotes in the document; if there are, just use Search/Replace to replace them with straight quotes.

So, there's the end of the mystery. May your web pages and email contain no more weird characters!

8 Comments for "Microsoft Word making weird characters in your blog or email?"

  1. Ella Cochrane

    Diane,I have a friend, Terry, who helps me with technical errors. I am a senior (81) and enjoy using the net. I just received an e-mail from Terry enclosing your web site; however, my complaint is really e-mail related and nothing to do with the Word Program, but just in case I did follow the "auto correct" instruction, and who knows it might help me when I do use Word. :-)

    I received an e-mail from my sister-in-law including my reply below hers, and my reply had A's all over the place,
    and I just wondered if it was anything in my e-mail, but Margaret tells me my e-mail arrived okay, and she doesn't know how this happened(?). I know much more than she does about computers, for sure. No way did she write an e-mail in Word and then copy it to AOL. :-)


  2. Diane Vigil

    Hi Ella. Without knowing more, I'd guess that it has to do with the email programs each of you is using — but it's hard to tell without more information.

  3. Maria

    Hi Diane, thank you for this info. however i am wondering if your sugestion will be useful in writing in a different language? Since i must. I am so frustrated because i have tried to write a blog in tow different langges but same blog, and i am not sure if these strange characters have to do with the foregn language? the foreing language has all these different accentuation and i am not sure if your tip will be applyed to a foreign language? Thank you!


  4. Diane Vigil

    Hi Maria. It's very possible that the strange characters you're seeing are due to the use of foreign language characters on your blog.

    I didn't understand whether you're writing your original text in Word (or some other word processor), which means Word's foreign language characters may not translate properly to HTML entities in the blog software. However, typing in HTML entities has got to be a pretty grueling experience.

    I'm not sure what blog software you're using (WordPress?), but there are some discussions at the WordPress forums:

    Arabic Not Displaying After Upgrade
    a list of foreign language discussions

    The Arabic discussion in particular may help you. Let me know how it goes!

  5. Alejandrina Targa

    After one of the technitian serviced my computer all of my files are in weird characters. When I try to open a file word ask me to select the code for the convertion of the file and then display garbage.

    My technitian say or the pictures or the files and well I said both. So I settled for my pictures but I need my files.

    Can you help me …


    Alejandrina Targa

  6. Diane Vigil

    Your problem is different than the one I've described here.

    You're saying that all of your files are in weird characters. I'd suggest that your technician messed something up … but I'm not sure I'd suggest going to the same technician, since this is a pretty bad result of his work.

    I'd check Google further, and if that doesn't work, go to a different technician. (I'm not a computer technician, unfortunately.)

  7. Amy

    You are a lifesaver! Even ten years after the above post, it is still helping others! I type medical reports in Word and paste them into an EMR. I was constantly frustrated trying to figure out how to correct my apostrophes from being turned into question marks when I would paste the report into the EMR. I played around with many settings, thinking it had more to do with the cut, copy and paste options, but lo and behold, the "smart quotes" was the culprit and was such an easy fix. You have saved me a lot of time having to manually go back into the pasted document and change the question marks back to apostrophes. Thanks again!

  8. Diane Vigil

    :-) Glad it helped.

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