What is an interrobang‽
Need to make it clear you’re asking a rhetorical question‽
An interrobang is a combination of a question mark and an exclamation mark.
It allows you to add spark to a written question; to express surprise, scepticism or irony—or to make it clear that your question is rhetorical.
Its name is a portmanteau of interrogate and bang.(Bang is what typesetters used to call an exclamation mark)
When to use an interrobang?
Most of the time, the context or phrasing of a question is enough to understand its intent:
If you tickle us, do we not laugh?
It’s clear that this question is rhetorical. There will be no tickling.
But, when context is limited—say, in an advert or a tweet—it can be useful to use an interrobang to make things clear:
But, what’s wrong with “!?” or “?!”
Absolutely nothing—some people just think it’s messy to use multiple marks when one could do.
When not to use an interrobang
If you wouldn’t use an exclamation mark then its probably not appropriate to use an interrobang. It feels informal and can cheapen your message.
Add an interrobang to this rhetorical question and its meaning is reversed. A stern warning against the dangers of drug use could be misinterpreted as a fun invitation to get high:
This is your brain. This is drugs. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?
This is your brain. This is drugs. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions‽
(That might be pushing it a bit)
Does anyone actually use interrobangs?
No, not really, and when they do it’s usually because they want you to know that they know about interrobangs.
I don’t think I’ve used an interrobang, except to write this article.
The origin of the Interrobang
The interrobang was invented by Martin Speckter, a classic New York ad-man with a passion for typography.
He disliked the growing trend of using “!?” in advertising copy. Being an ad-man and the editor of a typography magazine, he found himself in a unique position to fix the problem—and so the interrobang was born.
Here’s an example that Speckter used himself:
What? A refrigerator that makes its own ice cubes‽
Speckter proposed his invention to his readers—and it was a hit. They offered up some fun alternative names: quizding, rhet, exclamaquest, emphaquest, and exclarogative — but Speckter’s original name stuck.
Designing the interrobang
Speckter’s readers were also asked to volunteer designs—but in the end the interrobang designed itself. Superimposing “!” and “?” just makes sense.
The simple design of the interrobang is probably why it’s managed to persist while other attempts at inventing punctuation have been forgotten.
The interrobang doesn’t require any new knowledge; when you see one for the first time its meaning is instantly clear.
How to type an interrobang?
(when you don’t have access to this site)
It is possible to use an interrobang without visiting this site —but please keep coming back!
Here’s how to do it on MacOS and iPhone (sorry everyone else):
Using an interrobang on MacOS
First click on this symbol ⌘ in the top right of your menu bar. If you can’t find it, do this: System Preferences → Keyboard → Input Sources → ☑ Show input menu in menu bar
Then click Show Emoji & Symbols in the dropdown:
The character viewer window will appear. Click “punctuation” or search “interrobang”
How to set up an interrobang shortcut on MacOS
Here’s how to set up a autocomplete like this one, so you can quickly type an interrobang without having to go throught lots of menus:
Navigate to: System Preferences → Keyboard → Text Your system preferences window should look like this: Click the plus sign +
Under replace type the punctuation combo you’d like to autocorrect to an interrobang.
I’ve set mine to !?? because I often use !? and ?!
Under with paste an interrobang.
Setting up an interrobang shortcut on iPhone
The same autocorrect shortcut can be achieved on iPhone.
Copy an interrobang to your clipboard (ready to paste in a bit)
Navigate to: Settings → General → Keyboard → Text Replacement
Tap + to add a shortcut:
Paste your interrobang in the phrase input.
Screenshot of the text replacement shortcut menu on iphone