Updated July 2023
Americans have embraced many fads and phases over the years, and some have been fairly forgettable (pet rocks excluded, of course). These trends, including trends in punctuation, eventually fade into the woodwork, until very few people actually remember them at all. Unfortunately, this is the case for the poor old interrobang.
What?!?! You’ve never heard of the interrobang?!?!
If we were to use this sad, maligned creature right now, it would merge the exclamation points and question marks of the previous sentences into one new, glorious punctuation mark and save us all some grief. Who needs to see such a confusing conglomeration of marks anyway?
Martin Speckter came up with this concept in the 1960s, when he headed up an advertising agency. He believed that a single mark would look better than a combination question mark/exclamation point in his copy, and, indeed, the interrobang, as he named it, became popular for most of that decade.
It appeared in some dictionaries and in magazines and newspapers across the country. Some typewriters even featured an interrobang key, but, much like the typewriter itself, it was phased out.
It’s possible that the interrobang died a natural death because of its irritation factor. It is irritating to read a sentence that contains more than one exclamation point or question mark; it is irritating when the sentence combines question marks and exclamation points; therefore, it must have been quite irritating to see this freakish combination mark in print. Could it be that the I-Bang never really had a chance?
Want to know where to find the interrobang on your keyboard? Don’t fret too much. Check Microsoft’s Wingdings, as well as a few other fonts. But remember: Just because you can still find platform shoes with goldfish swimming in the soles doesn’t mean you should buy them. And you definitely shouldn’t wear them out in public!
Got grammar questions? The Writer’s Relief proofreading team is here to help. We specialize in working with creative writers!