SmartyPants ported to Python

Ported by Chad Miller Copyright (c) 2004, 2007 Chad Miller

original SmartyPants by John Gruber Copyright (c) 2003 John Gruber


A smart-quotes plugin for Pyblosxom.

The priginal "SmartyPants" is a free web publishing plug-in for Movable Type, Blosxom, and BBEdit that easily translates plain ASCII punctuation characters into "smart" typographic punctuation HTML entities.

This software,, endeavours to be a functional port of SmartyPants to Python, for use with Pyblosxom.


SmartyPants can perform the following transformations:

This means you can write, edit, and save your posts using plain old ASCII straight quotes, plain dashes, and plain dots, but your published posts (and final HTML output) will appear with smart quotes, em-dashes, and proper ellipses.

SmartyPants does not modify characters within <pre>, <code>, <kbd>, <math> or <script> tag blocks. Typically, these tags are used to display text where smart quotes and other "smart punctuation" would not be appropriate, such as source code or example markup.

Backslash Escapes

If you need to use literal straight quotes (or plain hyphens and periods), SmartyPants accepts the following backslash escape sequences to force non-smart punctuation. It does so by transforming the escape sequence into a decimal-encoded HTML entity:

(FIXME: table here.)

This is useful, for example, when you want to use straight quotes as foot and inch marks: 6'2" tall; a 17" iMac.


For Pyblosxom users, the smartypants_attributes attribute is where you specify configuration options.

Numeric values are the easiest way to configure SmartyPants' behavior:

Suppress all transformations. (Do nothing.)
Performs default SmartyPants transformations: quotes (including ``backticks'' -style), em-dashes, and ellipses. "--" (dash dash) is used to signify an em-dash; there is no support for en-dashes.
Same as smarty_pants="1", except that it uses the old-school typewriter shorthand for dashes: "--" (dash dash) for en-dashes, "---" (dash dash dash) for em-dashes.
Same as smarty_pants="2", but inverts the shorthand for dashes: "--" (dash dash) for em-dashes, and "---" (dash dash dash) for en-dashes.
Stupefy mode. Reverses the SmartyPants transformation process, turning the HTML entities produced by SmartyPants into their ASCII equivalents. E.g. "&#8220;" is turned into a simple double-quote ("), "&#8212;" is turned into two dashes, etc.

The following single-character attribute values can be combined to toggle individual transformations from within the smarty_pants attribute. For example, to educate normal quotes and em-dashes, but not ellipses or ``backticks'' -style quotes:

py['smartypants_attributes'] = "1"

Educates normal quote characters: (") and (').
Educates ``backticks'' -style double quotes.
Educates ``backticks'' -style double quotes and `single' quotes.
Educates em-dashes.
Educates em-dashes and en-dashes, using old-school typewriter shorthand: (dash dash) for en-dashes, (dash dash dash) for em-dashes.
Educates em-dashes and en-dashes, using inverted old-school typewriter shorthand: (dash dash) for em-dashes, (dash dash dash) for en-dashes.
Educates ellipses.
Translates any instance of &quot; into a normal double-quote character. This should be of no interest to most people, but of particular interest to anyone who writes their posts using Dreamweaver, as Dreamweaver inexplicably uses this entity to represent a literal double-quote character. SmartyPants only educates normal quotes, not entities (because ordinarily, entities are used for the explicit purpose of representing the specific character they represent). The "w" option must be used in conjunction with one (or both) of the other quote options ("q" or "b"). Thus, if you wish to apply all SmartyPants transformations (quotes, en- and em-dashes, and ellipses) and also translate &quot; entities into regular quotes so SmartyPants can educate them, you should pass the following to the smarty_pants attribute:

The smartypants_forbidden_flavours list contains pyblosxom flavours for which no Smarty Pants rendering will occur.


Why You Might Not Want to Use Smart Quotes in Your Weblog

For one thing, you might not care.

Most normal, mentally stable individuals do not take notice of proper typographic punctuation. Many design and typography nerds, however, break out in a nasty rash when they encounter, say, a restaurant sign that uses a straight apostrophe to spell "Joe's".

If you're the sort of person who just doesn't care, you might well want to continue not caring. Using straight quotes -- and sticking to the 7-bit ASCII character set in general -- is certainly a simpler way to live.

Even if you I do care about accurate typography, you still might want to think twice before educating the quote characters in your weblog. One side effect of publishing curly quote HTML entities is that it makes your weblog a bit harder for others to quote from using copy-and-paste. What happens is that when someone copies text from your blog, the copied text contains the 8-bit curly quote characters (as well as the 8-bit characters for em-dashes and ellipses, if you use these options). These characters are not standard across different text encoding methods, which is why they need to be encoded as HTML entities.

People copying text from your weblog, however, may not notice that you're using curly quotes, and they'll go ahead and paste the unencoded 8-bit characters copied from their browser into an email message or their own weblog. When pasted as raw "smart quotes", these characters are likely to get mangled beyond recognition.

That said, my own opinion is that any decent text editor or email client makes it easy to stupefy smart quote characters into their 7-bit equivalents, and I don't consider it my problem if you're using an indecent text editor or email client.

Algorithmic Shortcomings

One situation in which quotes will get curled the wrong way is when apostrophes are used at the start of leading contractions. For example:

'Twas the night before Christmas.

In the case above, SmartyPants will turn the apostrophe into an opening single-quote, when in fact it should be a closing one. I don't think this problem can be solved in the general case -- every word processor I've tried gets this wrong as well. In such cases, it's best to use the proper HTML entity for closing single-quotes (&#8217;) by hand.


To file bug reports or feature requests (other than topics listed in the Caveats section above) please send email to:

If the bug involves quotes being curled the wrong way, please send example text to illustrate.

To Do list

  • Provide a function for use within templates to quote anything at all.

Version History

1.5_1.8: Fri, 10 Oct 2014 13:49:48 -0400
  • Tags are ignored for closing apostrophes. All <em>Kyle</em>'s credit.
1.5_1.7: Fri, 09 Aug 2013 07:34:16 -0400
  • Add HBS language translation. Patch by by Vera Djuraskovic from
  • Add Python3 support.
1.5_1.6: Fri, 27 Jul 2007 07:06:40 -0400
  • Fixed bug where blocks of precious unalterable text was instead interpreted. Thanks to Le Roux and Dirk van Oosterbosch.
1.5_1.5: Sat, 13 Aug 2005 15:50:24 -0400
  • Fix bogus magical quotation when there is no hint that the user wants it, e.g., in "21st century". Thanks to Nathan Hamblen.
  • Be smarter about quotes before terminating numbers in an en-dash'ed range.
1.5_1.4: Thu, 10 Feb 2005 20:24:36 -0500
  • Fix a date-processing bug, as reported by jacob childress.
  • Begin a test-suite for ensuring correct output.
  • Removed import of "string", since I didn't really need it. (This was my first every Python program. Sue me!)
1.5_1.3: Wed, 15 Sep 2004 18:25:58 -0400
  • Abort processing if the flavour is in forbidden-list. Default of [ "rss" ] (Idea of Wolfgang SCHNERRING.)
  • Remove stray virgules from en-dashes. Patch by Wolfgang SCHNERRING.
1.5_1.2: Mon, 24 May 2004 08:14:54 -0400
  • Some single quotes weren't replaced properly. Diff-tesuji played by Benjamin GEIGER.
1.5_1.1: Sun, 14 Mar 2004 14:38:28 -0500
  • Support upcoming pyblosxom 0.9 plugin verification feature.
1.5_1.0: Tue, 09 Mar 2004 08:08:35 -0500
  • Initial release

Version Information

Version numbers will track the SmartyPants version numbers, with the addition of an underscore and the version on the end.

New versions will be available at


John Gruber did all of the hard work of writing this software in Perl for Movable Type and almost all of this useful documentation. Chad Miller ported it to Python to use with Pyblosxom.

Additional Credits

Portions of the SmartyPants original work are based on Brad Choate's nifty MTRegex plug-in. Brad Choate also contributed a few bits of source code to this plug-in. Brad Choate is a fine hacker indeed.

Jeremy Hedley and Charles Wiltgen deserve mention for exemplary beta testing of the original SmartyPants.

Rael Dornfest ported SmartyPants to Blosxom.