Friday, March 19, 2010

Interrobang: "The spork of punctuation."

With a tagline like that, how can the interrobang not be more popular?
It's cute, it's playful, and it would give punctuation to all of those pesky "surprised rhetorical questions" in your writing.

As of yesterday, I had no idea the interrobang even existed. Then one of my lovely office assistants, Sarah, asked me if I'd heard of it. I was flabbergasted.

Alright, not quite.
I just wanted to say "flabbergasted."
But I was pretty darn entertained.

According to the ever-so-official Wikipedia, the interrobang was invented in 1962 by Martin K. Speckter, the head of an ad agency, but it never became more than a fad.

The unpopularity of the interrobang brings me to a debate about the question mark/exclamation point combo punch in novels.
i.e. "What?!" or, alternately "What!?"

There's a slight stigma attached to double punctuation in the publishing world, though I feel that YA would be most accepting of it. Personally, I don't use it. To me, it's just a more subtle way to include "she exclaimed, questioningly" instead of "said." (I cringed typing "she exclaimed, questioningly.") I just try to show that a line is interrobang-friendly. Or assume my readers know.

But is it at the cost of effectiveness?!


Commence debate, please! And has ANYONE heard of the interrobang before?


  1. I'm so adopting the interrobang in my writing. It's adorable. Now I only have to figure out how to type one. Darn it.

    And no, I'd never heard of it until this post.

  2. Stina - Never fear! According to the Wikipedia article: Microsoft provides several versions of the interrobang character as part of the Wingdings 2 character set (on the right bracket and tilde keys) available with Microsoft Office. It was accepted into Unicode and is present in several fonts, including Lucida Sans Unicode, Arial Unicode MS, and Calibri, the default font in the Office 2007 suite. Interrobang away!

  3. I seem to remember the interrobang being 'in' sometime during my 1980s youth.
    I think there was a pop group, or some equally trendy entity, named interrobang.
    I shall have to start using it.

  4. Amazing! I'd never heard of it before, but I think it needs it's own key.

    My favorite type of punctuation is the tilde. ~~~ Not only do I think it has a cute name, but it is completely superfluous on the keyboard of a English-speaker, other than as a cute way to sign one's name.

    ~Sara :)

  5. I'm surprised the AP wasn't all over this. Their punctuation rules are all about saving ink! Cut 20K commas in a year and you save a boatload when press runs that are as high as, say, the Washington Post's. (And what kind of geek am I that I even know this stuff??)

    I suppose the reason it never took off is that in smaller font sizes it is likely hard to read. But you've gotta love the economy of it. Elegant, really.

  6. That is the coolest piece of punctuation I've ever seen! I wish it had caught on.

    I used to use the exclamation point-question mark combo, but I got shot down and I didn't think it was that important to fight for, so I let it go. I'd rather spend time defending some of my telling. ;)

  7. I just updated my MSWord and added a shortcut for the interrobang. Tonight when I am working on my MS I will certainly be incorporating it. One question -- What do you think agents and editors will do when they happen upon it?

    BTW - I googled Interrobang and there is a music group with said title. They sound punk rock to me. Here's the myspace URL:

  8. EVA - It's quite the trendy word! And a cool band name.

    Sara - I think so too! I love using the tilde for non-tilde uses.

    Laurel - V. true. Some diehard punctuation snobs probably shot it down as unprofessional.

    KM - I think it's pretty too! Way to choose your battles. :)

    TL - Haha glad you love it! I have no clue what they'll say, but let us know!

  9. Never even heard of this..But its different. Hmm I am not sure what to make of it.

  10. Awesome! I will Interrobang from hence forth! Oh, but not in my professional writing. Just in my tweets and FB statii...

  11. I never heard of it but I find it fascinating and am curious how it is viewed (or even known) by professionals.

    Great post! I included it in my Friday Link Love post this week.

  12. I've heard of it before, and I use it all the time in MSN conversations.

    I have actually seen it in a book before, but I can't remember what book it was... I shall try to find out!

  13. Oh wow, I have never heard of an interrobang until now! Thanks for enlightening me! To be honest, I had a very strong reaction to it. In fact, I hate it! Ok, maybe not hate, but severe dislike. I don't even have a good reason for it. It's just ugly.


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