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Have you ever heard of a punctuation mark called an Interrobang? I know I never had until I came across it in one of the best Grammar and Punctuation books I’ve ever read, and still reading – Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty.
I’ll be doing a review on this book in the next week or two, but I wanted to share what I discovered about this punctuation mark here today.
As Fogarty’s book explains, it wouldn’t look proper to add both an exclamation and question mark at the end of a sentence, but some expressions warrant it. Although it’s not advised to use this mark in formal writing, it’s approved to use in informal writing and communications when we’re wanting to emphasize in exclamation and make a statement with a rhetorical question in surprise at the same time.
The mark is basically an exclamation mark combined with a question mark.
Let’s say someone tells us something shocking or incredulous, a natural reaction we may respond with may be:
You did not!?
Are you crazy?!
Are you crazy!?
You did not?!
Those are just a few examples where you could use the interrobang, which would look much cleaner than the versions I’ve listed including unacceptable double punctuation marks. The statements are rhetorical, reacting in surprise and/or in outburst of disbelief or shock. Have you ever written a statement informally where you wanted to express strong emphasis on a statement or reply such as: What??????????? I know I have, especially since I’m a very expressive and animated personality.
A Little History on the Interrobang
It was invented by American, Martin K. Speckter in 1962, to make a cleaner punctuation mark. The name was inspired by the Latin – Interrogatio – meaning rhetorical question, and the “Bang” was taken from a printers’ slang for exclamation mark.
In 1968 an Interrobang key was available on some Remington typewriters, and into the 70s, some Smith-Corona typewriters incorporated it, although not a standard mark. In the 60s, it was considered quite en vogue and consequently appeared in some dictionaries and was used in various newspaper and magazine articles.
Many fonts don’t include this mark, but you can find it in certain versions of Microsoft Word in the “Symbols” section. It’s in Wingdings 2 and Palatino font.
Ironically, I can’t demonstrate it here in a sentence because I wrote this post in my WordPress editor and the mark isn’t listed in my symbols. But when I was working on my desktop with an older version of Word I use on that computer, 2007, I did find the mark there. Alternatively, if you can’t find it in your symbols on your Word program, you only have to change to Palatino while you’re in there and you should find it.
Now, what do you think about this interesting punctuation mark? Would you consider using it? Would you like to see it become fashionable again and acceptable to use in formal writing?
Wouldn’t that be fun!?!?!?