Interrobang?! — Interrobang!?


One of the least heralded, but arguably most important new features of the new ClearType font collection is the support for a previously little used character—the interrobang. This character was developed in 1962 by Martin Speckter with the intention of conveying additional information for advertising text.

People have many different opinions on this character. The reactions have varied from, “You want to add what character to the fonts‽” or “Cool, when will I be able to use it in the font‽”

These fonts are not the first fonts that Microsoft has worked on that support this character. Other fonts include Arial Unicode, Palatino Linotype, Lucida Sans Unicode, Frutiger Linotype, and Berling Antiqua.

Here is a look at the interrobangs in the new ClearType font collection.

Greg

Note: if in the above sample sentences you see a rectangle, that is not the shape of the interrobang. That just means the font being used in your reader or browser doesn’t support the interrobang. If you are using Internet Explorer with font embedding, you should see the correct character.

Edit: Update Image Reference.


Comments (51)

  1. TC says:

    Huh? What does it mean?

  2. Dave Solimini says:

    seems kind of like a useless combination to me. I understand the point, and all, but other compound punction — the semi-colon — at least serves a purpose that is independent of the two marks it combines. The interrobang seems to just be a contraction without a whole lot of usefullness. Is there really that much savings between !? and the combination thereof?

  3. John Hudson says:

    Hideous, all of them, especially that first one.

  4. SirPavlova says:

    You can’t really expect the glyphs to look gorgeous – the character hasn’t been used enough to see any real refinement of it’s shape, & it’s a difficult one in any case.

    That said, they do look pretty bad, especially the one for Candara. It’s not tall enough to fit the detail nicely at smaller sizes.

  5. Jernej says:

    I don’t suppose this one will be used much (good luck finding it on a regular keyboard) 😉

    Plus you can’t really recognize it at smaller sizes. It just looks like a mess of something.

  6. Si says:

    Greg or John,

    Do the C* fonts have a dlig OpenType feature that will replace ?+! with the interrobang?

    Jernj – easy access type ALT 8253 or type 203D and hit ALT X in Office apps.

  7. Rod says:

    I consider myself a glyph and font junkie, but I have never quite warmed up to the interrobang. It seems like a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.

  8. Vladimir says:

    It seems like, as opposed to what you’re saying, the reactions do not really vary. Seems like a badly drawn letter P to me.

  9. EricK. says:

    >It seems like a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.

    I agree. Might as well start working on other unnecessary combinations.

    How about a combination of @ and $ for when you wwant to talk about a number of items at a certain price, or ^ and * for when you want to insert footnotes, or # and % for when you’re feeling all math-y.

    There’s nothing that the interrobang does or represents that can’t be represented easier and faster just by typing !? or ?! manually. it only takes two shifted keystrokes to accomplish, is already compatible with modern keyboards, and is widely recognized.

    So, yay, there’s room inside the fonts for lots of additional, useless characters. Great. But you’d have about ten times the adoption rate if you’d decided to insert a handful of Star Trek or Lord of the Rings alphabets in there instead. Common usage or not, the true geeks’ll use ’em.

  10. Joe Clark says:

    Add some legends to tell us which fonts are which, please. I am not sure a single image is the way to go.

    Is John Hudson saying they all look "hideous," even the one he drew, if indeed he did? Without font IDs I can’t tell.

  11. Si says:

    First row: Constantia, Candara, Calibri

    Second row: Corbel, Consolas, Cambria

  12. fbcontrb says:

    I would argue that intent is clearer when a character is devoted to a meaning. Is it clear how to parse ?! or ?!‽ How do you interpret *&%.!?‽

    For quite a while people have been working on ways to better communicate intention with written language. This might help. I all depends on what becomes convention.

    It is quite easy in Microsoft Word to use auto-correction to add the interrobang. You just have to make sure the font supports the character.

  13. Dan McCarty says:

    "One of the least heralded, but arguably most important new features of the new ClearType font collection […]"

    Arguably most important? You aren’t serious, are you? I’d like to hear _that_ argument!! (That was the previously unheralded ligature known as the bangbang.)

    I don’t mind the idea of an interrobang, but I think the example you provided in text looks awful. It’s so short and small (at normal text sizes) that it’s nearly illegible. And it doesn’t seem to look much better at different sizes in IE or Firefox. Why isn’t it at least the height of a normal question mark or exclamation point?

    Personally, what I like about the interrobang is that it solves the question as to whether a ?! at the end of a sentence is grammatically correct. And it fills its niche elegantly, the way an ampersand is a ligature of et. But if the symbol has been around since the early 60’s and still hasn’t made it’s mark it’s doubtful that it’s going to take off anytime soon.

    BTW, I’ve always assumed that the correct style of "?!" is the question mark first. Does anyone use the exclamation point first?

  14. Kris says:

    I don’t know if it’s related to the interrobang but the Constantia Bold font cannot display numbers on my MacOS X system. Constantia regular face can but not Bold, Italic, nor Bold Italic.

  15. fbcontrb says:

    I just tried all the styles of Constantia on Mac OS X (10.4.3) and the numbers appear to display correctly.

    It should also be noted that Constantia is not currently licensed or sold for the Macintosh.

    Greg

  16. I have proposed the inverted interrobang (or gnaborretni) for encoding in the UCS for use in Spanish and Galician. See http://std.dkuug.dk/jtc1/sc2/wg2/docs/n2935.pdf

  17. Dan McCarty says:

    Michael Everson wrote: "I have proposed the inverted interrobang (or gnaborretni)…"

    Hey, if you’re going to do something like spell the word backwords because the symbol is backwards, you might as well go all out. I mean, the symbol is backwards _and_ upside down, right? Thus, I give you: Bueporrafui

  18. alex says:

    Man that’s just silly.

  19. Turystyczny Rondelek says:

    To DanMcCarty: you use ?! for sentences rather asking than exclamating, and !? for these, which are primarly ‘shouty’. Both forms are correct.

  20. mighty goblin says:

    tough being the new mark in town…

    isn’t there room on the block for a truly

    reflective character?!?!

    the very essence of melded emotions is captured

    in the interrobang

    If you aint found a use for the IB (?!) then yall’s missin out big!

      000

     0X0X0

      0☺0

     _|  |_

    / |  |

      |  |

      /☻☻

    _/    _

     

  21. Jekko says:

    I don’t know if it’s related to the interrobang but the Constantia Bold font cannot display numbers on my MacOS X system. Constantia regular face can but not Bold, Italic, nor Bold Italic.  

    Me too :-( on Linux… Why??

  22. David Berlow says:

    I think, the topology is wrong here. There need to be two (2) dots, and the process should be closer to making a ligature, more than an !? overstrike.

  23. Count me as a fan of the much maligned interrobang. It’s just so spunky and over-excited that it makes me smile. It’s punctuation with too much caffeine.

    What bothers me is that too many fonts resort to unimaginative renderings of this mark — simply superimposing ! over ? and calling it a day. The Candara and Constantia interrobangs have style going for them, which I appreciate. For my money, however, the interrobang in Palatino Linotype is still the prettiest one in any font.

  24. Loved your fontblog.

    Have you been to my web page?INTERROGANG-MKS.COM

    If you’re connected with Microsoft, why don’t you make it easier to use theinterrobang?  I get questions all the time about where to find one.

  25. Seth says:

    The interrobang is a genious character.

    Somehow, I simply don’t understand the problem some of you have with it…

    Why, when given a unique, easy-access, clean finish character, would you choose not to use it‽

    Whatever.

    Oh, and yes, that was an interrobang.

    ^_^

  26. Doughnut says:

    The interrobang is great.

    It was simply created before its most useful time.

    (1) You can safe a space in text messages along with your u (you) and 4 (for).

    (2) It has a more specific meaning than the combination of the two characters ? and !.

    (3) Likewise, it is great for use in visual media, since it saves space and conveys a particular meaning.

    (4) It pioneers the thought that we are the pilots of our own language, and just because we’ve inherited an incredibly arbitrary and often lacking system of punctuation- we don’t have to live with it.

    Anyone who’s read the journalist Tom Wolfe’s works will see how he can develop the flow of his language using various punctuation systems, especially the ‘::::’ .

    The argument "But who will use it it?!" is silly, especially if you look at the myriad of other rarely used symbols in unicode; Lack of foresight is no reason for lack of inclusion.

    I guess the only disappointment at the moment is not the ubiquitous inclusion of the interrobang in fonts. This means that if one is to import text from a source into, say, word- then one has to preserve the font that the interrobang is displayed in. If one isn’t aware of the interrobang’s presence and doesn’t have access to the original source or source font than one is stuck with a big ugly box. great.

  27. Bold Deceiver says:

    The real uselessness of the ib comes from the fact that, except in very informal settings, such as comic book sound effects (where two marks, if not more, add to the effect if anything) or  internet postings (where half the time the font you’re using won’t support the display of the character), there’s no place for the use of the two punctuation marks together; for the same reasons, there’s not much use for the combined mark, either.  Context, adverbs, and other cues have worked pretty well all this time; I guess I’m with Rod in seeing this as completely unneccessary.

    Plus, you have to squint pretty hard to tell it from a smudged question mark.

  28. I love our Typography group.  They have some really cool fonts and the newest feature added to the…

  29. Melissa says:

    I think everyone on here needs to recover from their font snobbery; who cares if there’s a new punctuation mark YOU don’t want to use?

    Until they revise Strunk & White to accommodate the "interrobang" you people need to find a better reason to be indignant.

  30. Jeff says:

    I agree with Melissa’s post above completely.  

  31. Brian Benthin says:

    Useless or not, you’ve got to admit "Interrobang!?" is a great name for a band.

  32. Tony Fisher says:

    So how do I use this critter? for instance I have Lucida Sans Uni Code, and Palatino Linotype, but cannot see how to create the interrobang!

  33. Virgule says:

    Thanks everyone for the views on Interrobang – especially Adam Messinger and other enablers~

    I’ve used it manually since the age of felt tips and phat lead~

    I find it irreplaceable when I come to the end of an emphatic, rhetorical question~

    We favor the unitary punkt, with the ‘bang’ element extending above the top curve of the ‘interro’ element, and the lower curve of the ‘interro’ clearly visible as a closed loop to the left of the ‘bang’ bat.

    Warm wishes,

    Virgule & Ellipsis Interrobang  (friends call usThe ‘Bangs)

    Fairfax, Virginia

  34. Michael says:

    I have seen other versions of the interrobang that look better.  I think is a neat little thing.

  35. Ryan T. says:

    I love the iterrobang. I use it in the book I am writing. It is quite useful.

  36. Ben says:

    I think it’s brilliant, infact i’m doing a university project on it. Big love for the ‘bang!

  37. Gareth says:

    Great character, the interrobang. Nice to see it just as its starting to change and evolve.

    To Ben – what does your university project on the interrobang involve? Sounds interesting!

  38. Steve says:

    Um, it’s not brilliant, it’s stupid, because you can’t see it. In the text above, introducing the character, it just looks like a question mark with a bit of schmutz on it. You can see it okay at 72 point, but what’s the point of that? The only intelligible way to use it is to type them separately, so you can see them separately: "?!". And it’s ungrammatical.

    I guess it’s appealing to people who think ~ is a good character to close a sentence with.

  39. Ah, the interrobang.  We have a great love of it, and support its use.  We also invite everyone, opposers and supporters alike, to join in on the Interrobang diologue at http://www.myspace.com/punctuationliberation  

  40. dan man says:

    I came across this little sucker on wikipedia the other night and I’ve been using it multiple times a day ever since!  Where has it been all my life ‽

    I think it’s much more efficient than the ?!/!? and saves you the guilt of being ungrammatical.

    I have to agree, though, in it’s current state it kinda looks like a "?" with a booger.  I think it would be clearer to recognize in a smaller font size if the body of the "!" extended through the top of the "?"  How many people confuse $ and ¢ with the letters S and c‽

  41. nwourms says:

    Agree with dan man and others. There is just no need for the font snobbery being shown. I also don’t understand why it is shorter than its sister punctuation marks. If it were the full height, perhaps it would be more legible.

  42. I think some of you have entirely too much time on your hands.

  43. One of the least heralded, but arguably most important new features of the new ClearType font collection is the support for a previously little used character—the interrobang. This character was developed in 1962 by Martin Speckter with the intention

  44. None says:

    You can not learn Arabic in it

  45. what_is_the_wildnext says:

    When I first began reading the comment thread, I was truly disappointed with the amount of nay-sayers!  But I read on.

    Those who approve seem to have much more practical and intellectual arguments… Those who don’t are not following the larger context in which the necessity for the character was born. And they apparently just can’t seem to fathom that its purpose is not to increase the speed at which you type. Last I checked, no one *needs* to instant message anyone any faster.

    Working in the graphic communications field, I find clarity of written expression — in general — is sorely lacking!

    The interrobang is useful in many circumstances.

    And a P.S.: I’m currently working on a masthead that combines the ! and , — does anyone know if other less traditional punctuation combinations have been given names?

    Examples and more info at: http://v3.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/biblio?CC=WO&NR=9219458&KC=&FT=E