The world of style and usage can feel like the Wild West.
Nouns becoming verbs and literally not meaning literally add to writers’ confusion—along with cooked-up punctuation marks such as the interrobang.
The interrobang, The Guardian reports, is a non-standard punctuation mark—?! or !?—used at the end of a sentence that asks a question in an excited manner; expresses excitement or disbelief in the form of a question; or asks a rhetorical question.
Here are a few examples:
- You’ve written a hot bestseller and quit your day job?!
- The IT department said “no” to your request for a bigger email in-box!?
- You haven’t submitted any expense reports since February!?
- The clown acts really do run the circus!?
Why stop with the interrobang?
In the spirit of combining punctuation marks to create something new, how about combining the period and the question mark?
You could use these marks together to express doubt about a statement:
- The Earth is only 6,000 years old.?
- Dinosaurs and people lived at the same time.?
You could also combine the period and the exclamation point, using the mix when you’re not sure how much emphasis to give your sentence:
- Your brother—no matter what he says—cannot make you unconscious just by looking at you.!
- The team won the soccer game, but you have a concussion.!
Use of the interrobang in informal writing is nothing new. Writers use alternating question marks and exclamation points for emphasis, as in, “He said what!?!?!?”
However, the Chicago Manual of Style says that using multiple punctuation marks counts as poor style in formal writing. So, use the interrobang all you want when texting—but skip it in your chief executive’s blog posts.
What new punctuation marks would you like to see, Ragan readers?
Laura Hale Brockway is writer and editor from Austin, Texas. Read more of her work on PR Daily and at Impertinent Remarks.