I am referring to the interrobang, which I had never heard of until a friend recently told me about it. A “new social media icon” according to The Guardian, the interrobang 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. For example:
• You won the lottery and you’ll never have to work again?!
• The IT department said “no” to your request for a bigger email in-box!?
• You haven’t submitted any expense reports since February!?
• You mean the executives purposefully set goals for us that we can’t attain?!
In the spirit of combining punctuation marks to create something new, how about putting together the period and the question mark. You could use these marks together to express doubt about a statement.
• Earth is only 6,000 years old.?
• Dinosaurs and people lived at the same time.?
Or the period and the exclamation point, when you’re not sure exactly how much emphasis you want to give your sentence.
• Your brother—no matter what he says—cannot make you unconscious just by looking at you.!
• So your 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!?!?!?”
According to the Chicago Manual of Style, using multiple punctuation marks counts as poor style in formal writing. So use the interrobang all you want when texting, but not in your press releases.
What new punctuation marks would you care to share?!?!?
Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor. Read more of her work at www.impertinentremarks.com.