The internet has seen many crimes against the human eye - Comic Sans, tiled gif backgrounds, JPEG artifacts in text - but never has it seen a crime so heinous as the use of the back and forward ticks commonly in typographic settings. While the differences between these ticks and apostrophes may seem trivial, they are there and they can, in fact, make or break an otherwise solid piece of text. The most obvious of these differences is the direction: apostrophes, for the most part, go straight down, while backticks and forwardticks go a bit to the right and a bit to the left respectively. This has the added effect of ticks taking up quite a bit more room than apostrophes.

  1. '''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' 
  2. ````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````
  3. ´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´
String one contains 100 apostrophes, string two contains 100 backticks, and string three contains 100 forward ticks. Note how the ticks take up more than two times the amount space the apostrophes do. In fact, the apostrophes (in this typeface) take up 62% less horizontal space than the ticks. This means, arguably, that apostrophes are much more efficient in computer typesetting due to the decrease in space needed to display an amount of text, though this is, for the most part, unimportant. The use of ticks in context, however, presents a much more solid case.
It's been a long day.
It`s been a long day.
It´s been a long day.
I'm sorry, I can't do that for you.
I`m sorry, I can`t do that for you.
I´m sorry, I can´t do that for you.
Ticks, when used in the place of apostrophes, look terrible. Contractions are supposed to connect two words, but ticks are actually wider than spaces, separating the text even more, thus undermining the entire point of a contraction. Furthermore, ticks break up text uncomfortably, resulting a reading experience that is less than fluent. Even when they are not used as apostrophes, notably as single quotation marks, ticks are still not the best choice for the job. Try instead to use regular single quotation marks, which are much easier to type anyway.
She told John, "Oh my god! I saw Martin Sheen at the store yesterday. He told me, `Do not be a fool.`"

She told John, "Oh my god! I saw Martin Sheen at the store yesterday. He told me, ´Do not be a fool.´"

She told John, "Oh my god! I saw Martin Sheen at the store yesterday. He told me, `Do not be a fool.´"
Since it is obvious that ticks are so much more inferior to other characters, why then do we often see people incorrectly using ticks? On some keyboards, including the US INTL keyboard, the forwardtick is the default apostrophe symbol. This means that there is a barrier between many people and using the correct symbols. This is, sadly, not something that we can do very much about. Luckily, though, on most keyboards, it is much easier to type regular apostrophes, so ticks, for the most part, will not take over the internet just yet.

Since ticks are so terrible, it comes as a bit of a surprise that they even exist. The reason for this, as it turns out, is that they were never meant to be used as actual independent characters, but rather as diacritical characters that would put either grave or acute accents above letters such as à, è, ì, ò, and ù. Though the backtick has found a bit of a home in computer science, ticks should never be used when actually presenting a piece of text. They are ugly, inconvenient to type, and virtually useless in all usual cases. It is time to kill off the tick. That may sound a bit acutely grave, but acutely grave is all it was ever supposed to be.


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