Posted by: Jack Henry | October 6, 2016

Editor’s Corner: The Interrobang

A subscriber asked, “Can you use a question mark and exclamation point together at the end of a sentence?”

The use of these two specific punctuation marks is referred to as the interrobang, which combines a question mark and an exclamation point, and looks like this:

Since the interrobang isn’t a standard punctuation mark and isn’t on most keyboards, you may have seen double punctuation used at the end of a sentence (?! or !?).

I read an article that states that advertising executive, Martin K. Speckter, created the interrobang in the 1960s because “he lacked a punctuation mark suitable to express excitement and disbelief simultaneously.” Some typewriter companies also added an interrobang key. However, like most 80s hair bands, the luster of the interrobang fizzled out.

As for the etymology of interrobang, interro comes from interrogation point, which is the technical name for the question mark, and bang is printers’ slang for the exclamation point.

In formal writing, avoid using double punctuation marks at the end of a sentence. Instead, figure out what you mean to say and then choose the appropriate punctuation mark to express your thought.

Here’s a response to a question about the interrobang in the Chicago Manual of Style Q&A column.

Q. I checked throughout CMOS and find not a single mention of the interrobang. How could there not even be a single mention of such an intriguing punctuation option?!

A. And we don’t mention smiley faces, either! But some of us are keeping a list for the next edition.

Jackie Solano | Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.542.6711 | Extension: 766711

Symitar Documentation Services

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