New York, NY (April 1, 2014)—The National Association of Scholars today endorsed the “interrobang.” The recommendation was presented in a 90-page report, Why Not‽ Punctuating the Future.
The interrobang (“‽") is a punctuation mark that combines the question mark with an exclamation point. Introduced in 1962 by Martin Speckter as a way of indicating rhetorical questions, the interrobang has remained a seldom-used oddity in the decades since. It has, however, begun to grow in popularity. In recent years the interrobang has been included in various typefaces such as Palatino Linotype and Berling Antiqua. Most notably, Microsoft added it in 2005 to the Clear Type font collection.
Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, explained, “The interrobang is the right punctuation mark for our time. It perfectly captures the blend of assertion, sarcasm, and astonishment that is characteristic of both contemporary scholarship and commentary. Where would the Internet be without this mélange‽”
The study, Why Not‽ Punctuating the Future, is the work of a commission created by the NAS in 1989 to examine the pros and cons of the interrobang. Wood explained why the commission had taken 25 years to reach a recommendation. “The NAS is naturally cautious. We wanted to be sure we had examined all sides of the question thoroughly. Members of the commission had diverse views. Punctuation is more important than most people realize.”
“Sometimes a question isn’t really a question, is it‽ Am I right‽”
Wood continued, “But in the wrong circumstances, the interrobang could be deadly. If you see a piano falling out a window and a pedestrian walking below, you say, ‘Look out!’ not, ‘Look out‽’”
The commission decided, however, that the need for irony outweighed the danger to public safety. It recommended that academic presses, college and university publications, student newspapers, and electronic media such as Twitter adopt the interrobang as a standard part of their punctuation and that they amend their style manuals to require the interrobang in all rhetorical questions posed in a knowing or ironic tone.
NAS linguist and member of the commission, Ashley Thorne added, “The commission recognized that the interrobang is actually universal in human communication. English has been deficient in finding a proper description for this prosodic contour. N’est-ce pas‽”
The National Association of Scholars also intends to mount a campaign to have the interrobang featured in this year’s National Punctuation Day, September 24, sponsored by New Yorker magazine.
The major findings of the NAS report are:
- The interrobang is underused. Fewer than 2 percent of Americans use the interrobang in writing, but over 90 percent use it in speech.
- The interrobang suffers from poor marketing. When asked about the punctuation mark, many respondents thought we were referring to the treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
The NAS report's recommendations include:
- Adding the interrobang to standard keyboards.
- Including the interrobang in the Common Core K-12 State Standards.
- Making sure it is properly noted in the Congressional Record.
The NAS expects opposition. According to Wood, “There are always those who remain stuck in the past and feel sentimental toward the punctuation of the 1950s. Some deride the interrobang as ‘a solution in search of a problem’ or a ‘typographical atrocity.’ We understand the discomfort of those who are nostalgic for a time before postmodern irony, but it is important to keep up with the times. Today the interrobang belongs on every keyboard and at the end of every mordant aperçu uttered in feigned surprise. Don’t you think‽”