11 September, 2012

The Interrobang

Image from Wikipedia
I may be the only person in the world who didn't know what this was until a few months ago, but how awesome is the interrobang?! In case I'm not the only person in the world, let me explain that an interrobang is a little-used punctuation mark that is a cross between a question mark and an exclamation mark. It's there so that sentences like my first one of this post, don't have to end with a ?! or a !? Not only is it an amazing symbol, but its name is just perfect too.

I know a lot of people don't like a double punctuation marks and in principle I agree, but I can't help myself. I rarely use exclamation marks at all. I'm with F Scott Fitzgerald when he said, "An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke." But when I do use them, it tends to be at the end of a question - a question asked in an excited or incredulous manner. As I refuse to miss out the question mark, I need an interrobang. Unfortunately I don't think Microsoft Word has an interrobang as part of its range of symbols. I sense a petition coming...

Recently somebody (probably my eldest sibling - thanks!) drew my attention to this charming article about the imagined lives of punctuation marks. It made me smile. I have a passion for the semi-colon, but after accidentally abusing it for many years with my ignorance, I am also now having a sneaky affair with the em-dash which is increasingly being used to edge the semi-colon out of our written language. Have a read of the article, it'll make you laugh. If you don't have time, or need more persuading, here are a few snippets for you...

Apparently my new passion, the Interrobang is, "[...] always down for muddy outdoor concerts and to see the foreign art films your other friends refuse to go to."

My long-time love the semi colon has an, "[...] eclectic though indisputably stylish sense of fashion, and when she's not working (she doesn't get out of bed for less than $10,000, and, yes, her legs are insured), she spends her time lolling about on a divan and eating bon bons, then whitening her teeth."

Whereas my new mistress the em-dash, "[...]  lives on the blood of baby hyphens, and one time, in a bar, while very drunk, she stole En-Dash's purse and took it home with her. When En-Dash called the next day  to ask if she'd mistaken the purse for her own (En-Dash doesn't get out much, but she knows things), Em-Dash denied everything."

What are your punctuation loves and hates?

10 comments:

  1. That article was great. I'll admit I haven't heard of the interrobang.

    I used to hate semi colons, but now I understand them, and like them. But use them sparingly.

    I like em-dashes too, but have to be careful cause it seems like if I use one, another wants to pop up too closly. I don't like having them too close together as it starts to take away the punch. At least in my opinion.

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    1. I never use to use em-dashes but now use them all the time. But I'm the same, I can't use them in more than one sentence per paragraph or it looks and sounds odd to me.

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  2. I like the idea of the interrobang, but you'd have to be very careful how you used it, wouldn't you? More so even than the exclamation mark.

    I mean, how many over-excited questions can the average reader tolerate?!

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    1. Yeah, there'd have to be some sort of legal limit for writers like me!

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  3. I love the shape, I love the dubiousness of its title, and I wonder how the hell my Mac, manuscripts and readers will cope with it. For all those reasons, I'm in!

    Chloe, you always manage to bring us fresh ideas or a fresh perspective.

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    1. I love that those are the reasons you're in and not out!

      And thank-you :)

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  4. It's in Word 2010
    Insert|symbol|more symbols in general punctuation after the doubl exclamation‼

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    1. I have Word 2007 and it doesn't have it, I've searched many times. There's a good reason to upgrade! Thanks.

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  5. Grumpy old man alert - I hate the interrobang: both the symbol and the name. It looks like something from the Klingon alphabet, and the name sounds like a device from a sci-fi novel.

    But I do like em dashes - in fact I tend to over-use them.

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  6. Well who invited you to the party?! (Yup, I did the whole interrobang thing right there.)

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