When it comes to punctuation marks, the interrobang has by far the coolest name. But like its function, the word interrobang came from a merging of two words based on its two roles within a sentence.
Interro- stresses the question mark—or the interrogative point—within the punctuation mark.
And -bang emphasizes the exclamation mark—or, better known by programmers and printers, as “bang.”
That’s how the name interrobang was born!
Cool names aside, you came to this blog post because you’re not certain whether or not you should dazzle your writing with it. And understanding when (and when not) to use it starts by understanding what the interrobang actually is.
So, What is an Interrobang?!
The interrobang is a punctuation mark that combines both the question mark and an exclamation mark. Its purpose is to convey a question with high energy.
Let’s try these examples:
- You’re breaking up with me?!
- She said what to my mother?!
- He’s going to offer Tara the promotion?!
Most fonts don’t support the interrobang, so this punctuation mark is often represented with the question mark first, then the exclamation mark: ?!
Wait, I Can’t Always Use an Interrobang?!
That is correct. There are many instances where ending a sentence with double punctuation mark is considered poor writing.
Formal writing, such as an academic paper, a business proposal and a letter written for a formal occasion (respected relative, cover letter for a job, resignation from a position, etc.) would be inappropriate instances to show off your knowledge of the interrobang.
Using the interrobang correctly requires you to know your audience. A simple way to remember when and when not to use this punctuation mark can be answered by asking yourself this question: Would my reader approve of this use of double punctuation?
In all formal instances, the answer would be (and will always be) no.
Then again, most formal pieces of writing also don’t encourage the use of the exclamation point. But not this blog post!
When it comes to storywriting, from novels and short stories to playwriting and screenwriting, it’s best to leave out the interrobang. Fortunately, there are other creative ways to emphasize energetic questions within character dialogue without needing to use its most fitting punctuation mark.
Is There Any Way I Can Still Use the Interrobang?!
Actually, yes—well, sort of. Instead of correct, think of it as acceptable.
The interrobang thrives in all forms of informal writing. That’s because this is where we often feel more comfortable expressing high levels of energy, be it excitement, shock, frustration, sadness or anger.
If you’re texting a friend, chances are you can use the interrobang to express your emotions. This is probably the case in emails, informal letters, notes and journal entries.
I say “probably” in these instances because, like with formal writing, you have to know your audience. If your reader finds your use of double punctuation marks a little overwhelming or exaggerative, you may find your words ignored or misunderstood. Don’t drop the interrobang to receive approval from your peer but rather to increase your levels of communication.
Say what?! Do you agree or disagree about my assessment of the interrobang? Share your opinions in comments section below.