In writing, sometimes it is necessary to express both excitement/surprise and disbelief at the same time. The most accepted method of showing these emotions through punctuation is to use both a question mark (?) and an exclamation point (!).
Did that dragon actually blow bubbles out of his nose?!
You saw Marvin kissing whom outside of study hall?!
However, there is a nonstandard symbol, called the “interrobang,” that melds both the question mark and the exclamation point into a symbol that looks like this: ‽
So, instead, the sentences would look like this:
Did that dragon actually blow bubbles out of his nose‽
You saw Marvin kissing whom outside of study hall‽
The point behind the point
The reason behind the new punctuation mark is to replace the clunky use of two punctuation marks into one elegant symbol, increasing efficiency, style, and general awesomeness.
The name “interrobang” comes from comes from a combination of the words “interrogative point,” which is another name for a question mark, and “bang,” which is printers’ slang for an exclamation point.
In 1962, advertising executive Martin K. Speckter invented the mark, thinking that advertisements would look better if surprised rhetorical questions could be conveyed with a single punctuation mark. He proposed the new mark in a TYPEtalks magazine article, thus launching a fledgling campaign for the interrobang.
For a brief period, it seemed like people might widely adopt the little punctuation mark that could. The year 1966 brought the release of the Americana typeface, which included the interrobang. Two years later, the mark became available on some Remington typewriters. And during the 1970s, Smith-Corona typewriters also offered the mark.
Modern interrobang movement
Despite media attention and inclusion in dictionaries, the interrobang has yet to achieve the level of acclaim and adoption this humble copy editor thinks it deserves.
However, there is a facebook group devoted to raising awareness of the mark. And rogue punctuation slingers are touting their love on blog posts. I hope 21st century fans will finally bring the interrobang its moment in the sun.
Using the interrobang
The interrobang is available through Microsoft Word. To use the mark, change your font to Wingdings 2. Then press the key marked with a tilde. (It’s beside the number one key on the top left side of your keyboard.) This will insert an interrobang into your Word document.
Now you will be able to express excitement mixed with surprise and disbelief with one stylish mark. Just imagine yourself typing the following:
Wait, you’re telling me not enough people are in lust with the interrobang‽
Feels good, doesn’t it‽
Fun fact: The lovely people (I assume.) at the State Library of New South Wales in Australia have selected the interrobang to serve as their logo.