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On Stackexchange sites I quite often have to use the backtic which can be got at usually as the key beside 1 (left side ) however when I press it the first time the ` doesn't appear until I press it again (at which point I get `` (2) or if I press another key such as a space.

Is there a historical reason for this or is it just my keyboard?

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Might be a keyboard layout thing. –  grawity May 9 '14 at 13:45

2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

This is either your keyboard or the software you are using (we can't see that from here). So it is not specific to StackExchange sites.

This is done because the software supports another feature: pressing the apostroph or the backtick followed by another letter (most common a vowel) is an easy way to write diacritical characters like é and è.

Because of this feature the software cannot immediately display the apostroph or backtick, it has to wait for the next character to determine what your intention is. Only when you press the next backtick it knows that you intended to enter a backtick.

This is not bad in itself: just remember to type the backtick twice, then press cursor left, then type what comes between them. That way you won't forget the closing backtick.

This is akin to typing the { } brackets in the C programming language first before entering the code that goes in between. There, having a closing bracket at the correct location is much more important.

This is not only done with apostroph and backtick, but e.g. also with double quotation marks (" and e gives ë) and even with consonants (, and C gives Ç).

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This is indeed very likely to be the keyboard layout setting. By default there are 2 layouts set per language and a simple CTRL + SHIFT changes the layout. Additionally if you add a language, ALT + SHIFT changes between keyboard language settings. By using US International, you indeed get the behavior from the question. Setting it to United States will remove it. –  LPChip May 9 '14 at 14:24
The apostrophe (') and the "backtick" (`) are two different symbols. The former is an actual symbol that is supposed to stand for itself, the latter is what could be called misuse of a diacritic mark that normally appears exclusively in combination with other characters. The apostrophe key is often not configured as a dead key, as an apostrophe can perfectly stand for itself, (though certain keyboard layouts that need to accommodate many accented characters might vary) and thus pressing the apostrophe key immediately writes an apostrophe. –  O. R. Mapper May 9 '14 at 20:21
@O.R.Mapper: Are there any keyboard layouts available which behave normally for ASCII characters, but still allow accented characters to be typed sensibly? Macintosh could do it 30 years ago using Option+grave as a "grave" dead key, Option+apostrophe as an "aigu" dead key, and Option+shift+apostrophe as an "umlaut" dead key, among others; would something so sensible be beyond Microsoft's comprehension? –  supercat May 9 '14 at 23:22
@supercat: I don't understand what you mean. Having the apostrophe as a non-dead-key that does not combine with characters and an acute and grave accent both as dead keys that do combine with characters is a sensible way to allow accented characters, is it not? That said, nothing stops you from creating your own keyboard layouts for Windows. –  O. R. Mapper May 19 '14 at 6:47
@O.R.Mapper: On the classic Macintosh keyboard layout (don't know if it's changed), option+apostrophe, option+shift+apostrophe, and option+grave are dead keys, but the keys without option just type their normal ASCII codes. –  supercat May 19 '14 at 15:27

This is called a dead key. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_key

It depends on your local settings (i.e. Keyboard layout).

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