A case for the interrobang

2012.09.24.interrobangToday is National Punctuation Day in America—a day to celebrate the amazingness of punctuation. Today also marks the start of Social Media Week—a world-wide event looking at social media’s impact on modern-day society. To that, I’ve decided to combine both celebrations into one post by making a case for a very social media-ish bit of punctuation: the interrobang. I mean, who wouldn’t want to read a post about the interrobang‽

An interrobang is a non-standard form of punctuation that combines a question mark and exclamation point all in one adorable little bundle. It was first conceived by Martin Speckter in the 1960s for use in advertisements, but it never caught on. The idea was that it could be used when asking a question in an excited manner, expressing excitement or disbelief in the form of a question, or asking a rhetorical question.

As I’m sure many users of social media—and social networking sites in particular—have seen, the use of multiple question marks and exclamation points at the end of comments and posts is standard all over the Internet. And whilst exclamation points are often overused these days (guilty!), they do help to convey a bit of emotion and meaning when communicating electronically. And when you’re trying to convey disbelief or sarcasm, sometimes it becomes necessary to use two bits of punctuation at once. Right‽

At the same time, social networking sites—specifically Twitter—limit the number of characters allowed for posts, meaning that brevity must be used. But with brevity, meaning can sometimes be lost.

When you combine the need for multiple punctuation marks to convey meaning and the need for brevity, it only makes sense to double-up on punctuation. You agree, right‽

And so, I make the case for the interrobang. I think we need to celebrate this little guy and give it the revival it deserves. We need to embrace its aesthetics. We need to revel in its ability to convey meaning and intent. And why not start today‽

To use it, you can enter the codes or you can copy-and-paste from here [ ‽ ] or your computer’s character map. Just make sure you use it!

Now, go spread the word, OK‽

5 thoughts on “A case for the interrobang

  1. Hmm. I can see it works with queries like “You cannot be serious”, ticks both the excited and rhetorical boxes. But if you won the lottery and were asking “When do I get my money”, that’s in no way rhetorical or sarcastic. Perhaps the sarcastic or rhetorical question requires the “Aye, right” punctuation mark.

  2. so I read the wikipedia link you gave & in plain English for those of us from Cle Elum…what keys do I need to push on the keyboard to make it work?? is it [alt] + the # given all at the same time??

    • If you hold down the Alt key then enter 8253, it should work. But some laptops don’t do Alt+ codes very well. In which case, you can just open your character map (Generally found at: Start > Accessories > System Tools) and copy it from there. I have my character map pinned to my start bar so that it’s there as soon as I click Start. (Good luck with the little guy!)

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