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I have read through this discussion several times: Keeping Quotation Marks in Output

Unfortunately, the accepted answer here only works once, at the notebook level. I'd like to permanently change this option (always showing string quotes) for the entire front-end, but somehow I can't get it to work.

SetOptions[$FrontEnd, 
 StyleDefinitions -> 
  Notebook[{Cell[StyleData[StyleDefinitions -> "Default.nb"]], 
    Cell[StyleData["Output"], ShowStringCharacters -> True]}]]

seemed like a good shot, but doesn't actually work. Of course, replacing $FrontEnd with EvaluationNotebook[] does work, but only for that notebook. Upsetting!

I also tried directly editing Default.nb and Core.nb, but it caused M to crash on startup.

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It seems that editing Core.nb works just fine, as long as you delete the cache information in the .nb file. This solves the problem.

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