National Punctuation Day

Today is National Punctuation Day and I’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to the interrobang.

Whilst it’s not technically included in National Punctuation Day’s celebration of “the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and the ever-mysterious ellipsis”, the interrobang is nonetheless useful and should be recognised.

So what exactly is it? Well, an interrobang is a nonstandard English punctuation mark mark that combines the exclamation mark (!) and the question mark (?).

When you’re asking a question that’s also an exclamation (or vice versa), you would normally place both exclamation and question marks at the end – “What is that?!” for example. With the interrobang however, you get both in one.

This clever idea was thought up in 1962 by American ad agency director Martin K. Speckter, although sadly it’s never become part of standard English punctuation. The name comes from the Latin for “query” (interrogatio) and printer jargon for the exclamation mark (bang).

It’s easy enough to handwrite, although in my writing it comes out looking more like a poorly scribed question mark. If you’re typing, MS Word has the symbol in Wingdings, and some word processors support it with the shortcut Alt+8253.

Enjoy National Punctuation Day, and don’t forget to try out the interrobang!