Re: Punctuation character (inverted interrobang) proposed

From: John Hudson (
Date: Wed Sep 07 2005 - 10:40:28 CDT

  • Next message: John Hudson: "Re: Punctuation character (inverted interrobang) proposed"

    John D. Burger wrote:

    > I mentioned this before, but received no reply - do you insist that no
    > utterances can be both questions and exclamations?

    Let me put it this way: whenever I've seen an utterance ending ?! (or !? for that matter)
    I've seldom had any trouble discerning whether it was actually a question or an
    exclamation and, hence, how it should have been correctly indicated. And I have never seen
    such an utterance that could not be categorised as either a simple question or a simple
    exclamation. When I see such an utterance that could be either, I don't presume it to be
    both: I presume it to be ambiguous.

    There is a reason why you so seldom see ?! or !? in books, excepting some juvenile novels:
    most authors and copy editors know the difference between a question and an exclamation
    and they decide which is appropriate. They do not leave the status of an utterance
    ambiguous. I have about a thousand books sitting around me, and I'd be hard pressed to
    find ?! in any of them.

    > For what it's worth, here are the relevant (to my mind) definitions from
    > Webster:

    > exclamation
    > 1 : a sharp or sudden utterance
    > 2 : vehement expression of protest or complaint

    That seems to me an inadequate definition, as it does not address the literary exclamation
    (the rhetorical ecphonesis), which is presumably what we are talking about in discussing
    written text. Informally, of course, people use ! and !!!! to indicate volume, surprise,
    indignation etc. but this seems to me to be using a punctuation mark for emotive purposes
    rather than for punctuation. My criticism of the interrobang is that it has *only* an
    emotive purpose, it doesn't mean anything as punctuation.

    John Hudson

    Tiro Typeworks
    Vancouver, BC
    Currently reading:
    October ferry to Gabriola, by Malcolm Lowry
    A fork in the road, by Anik See

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