Possible designs for the interrobang by advertising executives in New York in 1962.

You know I love unusual words, right? Well, here’s another one.  This time its not only an unusual word but a non standard punctuation mark as well!  Bonus!

So what the **** is an Interrobang?

The Interrobang, also known as the Interabang‽, is an unconventional punctuation mark used in various written languages and which is intended to combine the functions of the question mark, (or interrogative point), and the exclamation mark, (or exclamation point), which is known in the jargon of printers and programmers as a “bang”. (The exclamation mark is also sometimes called a “screamer” in the advertising business, especially in a headline.)

So who invented the Interrobang, and why?Mar­tin K. Speck­ter the advertising executive who thought up the interrobang

1962 was a truly mo­ment­ous year in the USA.

John Glenn be­came the first Amer­ican, and only the second hu­man, to reach or­bit; unforgettably, the Kennedy ad­min­is­tra­tion suc­cess­fully ne­go­ti­ated the nuc­lear tightrope of the Cuban mis­sile crisis, tak­ing the world within a hair’s breadth of nuc­lear war in the pro­cess; and NASA launched the world’s first tele­com­mu­nic­a­tions satel­lite, ush­er­ing in a new era of in­stant­an­eous global com­mu­nic­a­tions.

Con­sumer so­ci­ety too was reach­ing new heights: ad­vert­ising ruled, and the advertising agencies were springing up everywhere and ideas were burgeoning.

Anyway, one par­tic­u­lar New York ad exec turned his at­ten­tion to lofty mat­ters. Mar­tin K. Speck­ter (pictured left) was the head of his own New York ad­vert­ising agency with no less than the Wall Street Journal ac­count on his books.

He was a keen hob­by­ist ty­po­grapher, he also ed­ited Type Talks, a bi­monthly journal pub­lished by the Ad­vert­ising Ty­po­graph­ers As­so­ci­ation of Amer­ica which explored the use of type in ad­vert­ising.   He grew frus­trated with the increasing tend­ency of copy­writers to com­bine the ex­clam­a­tion mark and ques­tion mark to yield a sur­prised or rhet­or­ical ques­tion, for example:  “Who would punc­tu­ate a sen­tence like that?!”

So Speck­ter penned an art­icle for Type Talks to of­fer a solu­tion. ‘Mak­ing a new point, or, how about that…’ ap­peared in the March-April 1962 is­sue and ar­gued that there was a need for a single punc­tu­ation mark to re­place the ugly, jury-rigged con­struc­tion of a question mark followed by an exclamation mark.

As the art­icle went on to ex­plain, this pu­tat­ive sym­bol was in­ten­ded to con­vey a very par­tic­u­lar mix­ture of sur­prise and doubt:

To this day, we don’t know ex­actly what Colum­bus had in mind when he shouted ‘Land, ho.’ Most his­tor­i­ans in­sist that he cried, ‘Land, ho!’ but there are oth­ers who claim it was really ‘Land ho?’.  Chances are the in­trepid Columbus was both ex­cited and doubt­ful, but neither at that time did we, nor even yet, do we, have a point which clearly com­bines and melds in­ter­rog­a­tion with ex­clam­a­tion.  So we need an interrobang here.

Present­ing a set of spec­u­lat­ive designs for his cre­ation, rendered by his agency’s art dir­ector Jack Lipton, Speck­ter tent­at­ively named the new mark the ‘Exclamaquest’ or ‘In­ter­ro­b­ang’.

Here are the “tentative” designs that Jack Lipton created.

Possible designs for the interrobang by advertising executives in New York in 1962.


He ended the art­icle with an in­vit­a­tion to “Join the ex­al­ted ranks of Al­dus, Bodoni et al” by call­ing for read­ers to sup­ply their own in­ter­pret­a­tions of the sym­bol’s design, and so­li­cited new names to com­pare with his own sug­ges­tions.

There are other designs that were then offered as the new “interrobang”.  I wonder what you think of any of these describes the interrobang adquately for you.? I rather like Frank Davies’s effort.

Alternate designs for the new punctuation mark the interrobang.


So in 1962 Mr. Speckter developed the Interrobang, which has since recognized by several dictionaries and even some type and typewriter companies.  In the end, mir­ror­ing the pop­ular­ity of Speck­ter’s own term ‘In­ter­ro­b­ang’ over the other sug­ges­tions for its name, his simple su­per­pos­i­tion of a ques­tion and ex­clam­a­tion mark (like this: ‘‽’) would pre­vail, be­com­ing the model for most fu­ture in­ter­pret­a­tions of the sym­bol.

In 1968 Re­m­ing­ton Rand, a prom­in­ent type­writer man­u­fac­turer, had an an­nounce­ment to make:  “Re­m­ing­ton Rand of­fers the new punc­tu­ation mark, the
In­terrobang (a com­bin­a­tion of ? and !), as a spe­cial type face for its Model 25 Elec­trics.”  The brev­ity of this re­port be­lied its sig­ni­fic­ance. The In­ter­ro­b­ang’s path had been cleared all the way from the writer’s desk to the print­ing presses, and a new wave of en­thu­si­asm for the In­ter­ro­b­ang was in the off­ing.

The thing I can’t believe is how they pronounce this word – here it is on You Tube.

I think it should be In- terro-(rhymes with ferro)-bang, but it’s not my call!

So anyhow, how does one use an Interrobang?

 The mark is said to be the typographical equivalent of a grimace or a shrug of the shoulders. It applied solely to the rhetorical, Mr. Speckter said, when a writer wished to convey incredulity.

For example, the Interrobang would be used in an expression like this: ”You call that a hat?” with the interrobang replacing the humble (and less excited) question mark.

If you want to read about where in publishing the Interrobang has been used, I suggest you read the articles both by Shady Characters – a fascinating blog about such topics. Here’s Shady Characters’ first article, and second article.

An article in Life Magazine on 16 November 1968 suggests that the Interrobang should be widely used and is available for typesetters to use if they want to.
An article in Life Magazine 1968 about interrobang and its uses in journalism.

All well and good. But where do I find an Interrobang in Skype and on Word?

In Skype, the Interrobang is actually an animated emoticon found in the lower right corner. In this application, it’s known as the ‘What’s Going On’ emoticon, and it alternates between question mark and exclamation point.

Well, personally I don’t use Skype so I can’t tell you if this actually works!Where you can find the interrobang punctuation mark or emoji when on skype.

But much more importantly I’ve found out how to get an Interrobang on your computer in your word processing app.
And if you follow these instructions you’ll be able to do it too.
Here you go! I got this information from another blog – so thank you to them. An infographic showing you how to get an interrobang up on word on your computer.
So there is is – now you can add an Interrobang to your next email!  I wonder how it’ll be received?
Is this funny word for real‽ It sure is. And there’s one for you just for fun.

Are there other marks we don’t know about? Yes, there are!

I’m uber-delighted to let  you know that I’ve discovered other unused punctuation marks that I really think we should all campaign to use ….

I’m so excited that I discovered there’s an Irony Mark, a SarcMark, and LovePoint, an Exclamation Comma and a Certitude Point.

I can’t wait to tell you about them, particularly the SarcMark!  Won’t we enjoy that one? But that will all have to wait for another blog.

Talk soon,
Jenie x

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