Punctuation Marks You Should Consider Using

We’re all familiar with commas, periods, hyphens, and the like. Although semicolons can be confusing, we pretty much know what we’re doing when we punctuate a sentence. But don’t you get a little bored using the same old marks? Do you ever find yourself searching for the perfect way to convey a certain mood?

As you’ll see, extra punctuation marks have been suggested at various points in recent history. Their creators definitely felt there was a need for a new symbol, but none of them caught on.

It’s not always clear why these marks haven’t made it into mainstream use. A big factor is the process of physically printing them can be complicated. When using a printing press, if you want to include an unusual or new symbol, a new piece of metal needs to be designed and shaped, adding time and costs to the production. And even since the advent of computers, there are standard sets of letters, numbers, and symbols that get coded into different fonts. Typing something outside of these standard symbols involves extra steps. As you’ll see, we couldn’t even type some into this article!

If you want to add unique flair to your writing, try out these five punctuation marks. You’ll be best off using a pen!

interrobang

The punctuation mark with the most exciting name. You’re probably missing opportunities to use an interrobang without realizing it. If you’ve ever asked an incredulous question and added an exclamation point, you could’ve done with this combined symbol.

A mixture of a question mark and exclamation point, the interrobang was defined by advertising executive Martin K. Speckter in 1962. This was the first time a new mark had been suggested in English in some 300 years. The interrobang is designed to be placed at the end of a rhetorical question to indicate disbelief.

Typography enthusiasts were interested, but it has not entered common usage. As well as the printing problems we outlined, the interrobang met with bad luck in its early days. An article singing its praises ran on April Fool’s Day (and was mistaken for a joke). Then, one of the design companies offering a typeface with an interrobang folded. Remington typewriters briefly offered an interrobang key, but due to the extra price tag it did not become standard issue.

Examples:

  • You’re kidding
  • You paid how much‽
  • Could I be wearing any more clothes‽

irony mark

You might not want to ask Alanis Morissette to help you use this one. The first attempt to establish a mark to show irony was in 1668. John Wilkins was an Englishman who served as head of college of both Wadham Col­lege, Oxford and Trin­ity Col­lege, Cambridge—and did a lot more besides. He speculated that there might be life on the moon and designed a vehicle to fly up there. An ordained vicar, he also created a transparent beehive that allowed honey to be extracted without harming the bees who made it.

Wilkins suggested an upside-down exclamation point (¡) to go at the end of an ironic sentence. People did not take it up. A few hundred years later, the poet Alcanter de Brahm put forward a stylized, reversed question mark. People didn’t bite. There have been a few more attempts to make an irony mark happen in the years since, but nothing has stuck.

Surely there’s a place for such a mark in our digital world, where it is so hard to detect tone and nuance via typed text?

Examples:

  • The politicians gathered for another honest discussion¡
  • The Titanic was unsinkable⸮

exclamation comma

Sometimes you’re so excited you can’t wait until the end of a sentence to show it. Or perhaps the events you’re describing are thrilling, but the feeling has dissipated before the end of the next clause. You need an exclamation comma. As you might imagine, it is an exclamation point with a comma instead of the period at the bottom.

Along with the question comma, this mark was patented in 1992 by three American inventors. They were keen for it to take off, but—as you may have noticed—it didn’t. This is one that can’t be typed. Use your imagination for these examples.

Examples:

  • The wolf leapt from behind a rock [exclamation comma] but the princess had already climbed a tree.
  • This punctuation mark looks great [exclamation comma] and is useful, too.

love mark

In 1966, French writer Hervé Bazin playfully introduced six new symbols in his book Plumons l’Oiseau (including his own contribution to the irony mark stable). Bazin was better known as an author of semi-autobiographical novels about dysfunctional families, but his foray into the world of punctuation offered some interesting ideas. One of these is the love mark. Two question marks face each other, sharing the period at the bottom and resembling—according to Bazin—”a kind of heart.”

The love mark is used to end sentences that convey affection. Another un-typable symbol, it’s a shame this hasn’t entered common usage. It would be nice to be able to add more feeling to the clichés in greetings cards and letters.

Examples:

  • Happy anniversary [love mark]
  • You are forever in my heart [love mark]

SarcMark

The only symbol on our list to be trademarked and monetized, the SarcMark was created in 2010 by Paul and Douglas J. Sak. Specifically designed to help convey sarcasm on the internet, the SarcMark resembles a backwards number six with a dot in the middle.

There were previous attempts at introducing a symbol to mark sarcastic sentences. Blogger Tara Liloia suggested using the tilde (~), which already appears on standard keyboards. Josh Greenman, another writer, proposed an inverted exclamation point in 2004. None of these three ideas have been picked up by the general public, but it would definitely be useful to have something to help avoid misunderstandings online.

When your cousin comments “nice dress” on your profile picture, it would be good to know if you need to restart that family feud. If an email from a colleague says he “loves to get more work to do on a Friday afternoon,” you might want to check with him before you make it a regular part of your work schedule.

Examples:

  • Another rainy day. How wonderful [SarcMark]
  • I love it when you leave your dirty dishes on the table [SarcMark]

Of course, there is the danger that if you start using these punctuation marks in your writing, people might not know what you mean. This is your opportunity to educate them and spread the word about these creative punctuation marks.

 

If you need a brush up on some of the more conventional punctuation marks, read this spotlight on the 6 major punctuation marks, as well as primers on such marks as the em dash, colons, and commas.

 

But have you ever used an emoji to punctuate a sentence, though? Who knows if that’s the direction new punctuation will be going, so you should check out some of the most popular emoji on Dictionary.com.

 

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