All Hail the Interrobang! (What the?!)

By Guest Author

The proper response to the exclamation “All hail the Interrobang!” is “What the?!” That should be followed, of course, by an “Oh yeah, that thing…” as soon as you’re reminded of what heck an interrobang is.

The interrobang is a modern but non-standard punctuation mark. It combines a question mark (?) with an exclamation mark (!) in a variety of fashions. (?! and !? are the most obvious and common.)

You use an interrobang to show exasperation, or befuddlement. It accompanies rhetorical questions driving by frustration. You’re not really asking a question, but you wish there was an answer. If you remember Mango from SNL, Mango’s “What the Frick?!” ends with an interrobang.

I have a love/hate relationship with interrobangs. On the one hand, they are lively, serve a purpose, and remind us that language is ever evolving. On the other hand, I usually encounter them used by lazy writers who lump two punctuation marks together (or four ?!?!) because they can’t be bothered to figure out what they really mean to write.

Time will judge the interrobang, as it will judge us all. For now, all hail the interrobang as the sign of our times.

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15 Responses to “All Hail the Interrobang! (What the?!)”

  • Zibs

    I use the interrobang quite often and my most recent use would have occurred in a recent tweet of “ORLY?!”

    I would like to differ in thought on whether the exclamation point and question mark combo could be classified as an interrobang, since it -as punctuated- exclaims first and then questions. Would that not be considered more of an exclamoquery? And if so, is it possible to exclaim something first and then query? I think not, but am open to examples.

  • Steve

    My problem with all this is, “?!” just looks wrong to me. I much prefer “!?” because, in the final analysis, it always follows a question (rhetorical or not), so the question mark should be the final mark.

    But that’s just me. 🙂

  • Deo Durante

    This something I learned about. As if I met another precious item where it’s for kept so that in the end I can use it as one of my tool in communication. For me communication varies and depend on the level or audience we have around us. Say, children it might be easy to communicate with them but we need to use special language so that it is helpful and understanding in the part of this age group. Similar with the communication tool, however, in the use of interrobang, in formal writing maybe exempted from its usage. That interrobang is well accepted in a casual form of writing,likewise in communication, this is in order to pinpoint direction of one intent.

  • codebeard

    I’d be interested to see whether or not there are any contexts where ‘!?’ is used more often than ‘?!’ or vice versa.

    Personally, I feel that the one attached most directly to the last word of the sentence has the emphasis.

    To illustrate:

    “They went bankrupt!?” emphasises incredulity/surprise (!) that the company went bankrupt. It’s not really asking a question, apart from perhaps the implied “how did it happen?”.

    “They went bankrupt?!” emphasises the question (?) slightly more than the surprise — it’s like asking “Did they really go bankrupt?”.

    At least, that’s my feeling about it. Other people see the mark which goes last as being emphasised, in which case they would attribute the meanings in the opposite way to what I do.

  • Kaitlin

    I love the interrobang and find it very useful—so much so that I have my laptop set up so I can type it with ease and hope it will edge its way into general use. Grammar nerd? Check.

    The actual interrobang sign solves the ‘?! or !?’ dilemma, as it simply combines the two (‽).

  • Geri

    I first became aware of the interrobang, perhaps 30 years ago. It never caught on and I was extremely disappointed. Then, the original form was what Kaitlin posted at the end of her last sentence.

    How did you do that Kaitlin?

  • Geri

    Kaitlin – how did you create the interrobang that appears at the end of your last sentence?

    That is the symbol I saw for the first time approximately 30 years ago……it never caught on. I love the interrobang!

  • Deborah

    Sorry, but the Editor in me saw a couple errors in this article that I have to comment on.

    In the first paragraph you forgot a word:
    as soon as you’re reminded of what [the] heck an interrobang is.

    In the third paragraph, the word should be “driven”:
    It accompanies rhetorical questions [driving] by frustration

    Otherwise, great article!

  • Kitt Hallow

    I use the interrobang when I’m writing things such as–dreaded as they may be–Fanfictions and comics. However, in formal writing I find it to be too comedic to be used.

  • Peter

    The interrobang is a modern but non-standard punctuation mark. It combines a question mark (?) with an exclamation mark (!) in a variety of fashions. (?! and !? are the most obvious and common.)

    A proper interrobang has those two symbols written in the same space (overlapped); “?!” is just a cheap ASCIIfication (it should be “?!”, not “!?”, FWIW; if the latter has any meaning, it would be distinct from the interrobang meaning). The proper character is in available in Unicode: ‽

  • Peter

    The actual interrobang sign solves the ‘?! or !?’ dilemma, as it simply combines the two (‽).

    Ah…should read comments before posting responses 🙂

  • Susan Bearman

    While I acknowledge that language is ever-evolving, I’m wonder how we could have survived so long without the interrobang if it were a truly necessary form of punctuation. I’m thinking stronger, more precise language would do the job of the interrobang (perhaps even better).

  • Mike Maynard

    No I would never use a interrobang. I went to an English grammar school and they definitely didn’t teach us to use those!

  • don dada

    the interrobang consists of one glyph only: ‽
    what you all have typed is a common workaround, but not accurate — an exclamation mark followed by a question mark or vice versa.

  • Luke

    @Steve, I prefer to see the question mark last, however i believe it makes more sens that you have a sentence, that you turn into a question, and then exclaim that question.
    Is this wrong?!

    Otherwise I believe it would read that you are exclaiming something, then turning that exclamation into a question.
    This is wrong!?

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