1. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Exclamation Mark, Question Mark, both or interrobang

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by cutecat22, Mar 9, 2014.

    When you have a piece of dialogue that could be read as a question but with emphasis, which way around would you use the ? and ! or would you stick to the one, for example ...

    "How could you?" she screamed in anger. (here we use the question mark because she's asking a question)

    "How could you!" she screamed in anger. (should we stick with the question mark because the writer points out that she's screaming or maybe change the second part?)

    "How could you!" she asked angrily. (using the exclamation because she's emphasising and the text tells us it's a question)

    "How could you?!" (first it's a question, secondly, she's angry)

    "How could you!?" (an angry question)

    "How could you‽" (the reader decides this one)

    What's your thoughts on this and have you ever used an interrobang?
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Apparently interrobangs are not yet mainstream. The question mark overrides the exclamation. I imagine some people use both but I don't believe using two punctuation marks is grammatically correct.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Question mark is the way to go.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    My view is that a piece of information should only be communicated once. I start with this one:

    "How could you!" she screamed in anger.

    To me, this communicates the anger three times (the wording, "screamed" and "anger") and the volume twice (the exclamation point and "screamed".) I would try to chop it down to once and once. An example, on the assumption that the scene is in a fancy quiet white-tablecloth restaurant:

    Her voice cut across the gentle sound of harp music and cutlery, clear to the back of the room. "How could you?"

    I don't really like my scene-setting there; it's just there to demonstrate that I'd rather use the scene to communicate her raised voice.
     
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  5. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    My example wasn't to set a scene (and it's not from anything I've written) it was simply to illustrate the use of the question mark vs the exclamation mark vs both vs the interrobang. But I see your point, you would rather describe the angry scream as part of the scene and then use a question mark because she's asking a question. Good point!

    Gingercoffee, using both marks may not be grammatically correct but I have seen them used together by Dan Brown on one occasion. But then I have also seen him use commas before the word 'and' which I have been taught is grammatically wrong.

    Do the rules change for each genre/writer/reader and do readers actually 'read' punctuation marks and grammar?
     
  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Given how popular Dan Brown is, he can get away with anything. Stick to one or the other. I think that's the way it is for most, if not all, genres.
     
  7. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Given how popular Dan Brown is, he can get away with anything. Stick to one or the other. I think that's the way it is for most, if not all, genres.

    Surely that's wrong. Does that mean that as a writer becomes more popular they can simply throw the rule book out the window? (ok, I don't believe all the rules but, just saying ...)

    I would hope that, personally speaking, I can keep to the same standard in the last book I write as I have the first. I hope I certainly don't become nonchalant enough to say "hey, I'm so and so, my fans will buy my shopping list if I publish it ..." in the same way that some designers would put there name to a bin liner and people would wear it.

    My apologies to Dan Brown but I'm halfway through his sixth book and after absolutely loving the first five, I am hating this one.

    And going back to the original question, I'm not sure myself, which one I would use. Whichever I picked, I would probably change it every time I edited, then I would rewrite it, then my proofer would probably change it to something completely different! :-D
     
  8. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    It doesn't surprise me you've seen it, which is why I said, "I imagine some people use both but I don't believe using two punctuation marks is grammatically correct."

    Grammar and language are not forever fixed in stone, though there is a benefit in having standards that only slowly evolve rather than going willy nilly in multiple directions.

    The Internet is a case in point with a whole new text language evolving. But it's great on a cell phone, yet sucks everywhere else. And given all the abbreviations and acronyms, it can be a pain to look up the meanings of things.

    Some changes eventually catch on and become the norm. According to Wiki the interrobang was introduced in 1962. I won't bother with a link because I don't know if that is true, but it is a new punctuation mark. Adding a key to manual typewriters wasn't an easy change so you can see why it wasn't readily adopted.

    Now we have computers where adding a new punctuation mark is simple. You may see the interrobang eventually showing up in the latest editions of grammar texts.

    At the moment, the question mark officially supersedes the exclamation mark. I doubt readers care when they see double punctuation. Some editors of course, will. And some publishers may or may not.

    Personally, I'm fine just using the question mark and relying on the rest of the text to convey the exclamation.
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I hope there's a band called Interrobang. Someone needs to be workin' that name. ;)
     
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  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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  11. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Well...sort of. New writers usually can't go around using weird punctuation or rules because agents/publishers will most likely reject the manuscript. Once you have an established audience like Dan Brown does, marketing is less of an issue, so throwing in weird punctuation here or there is no problem. It's best to stick to convention in this case.
     
  12. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Fuck da police. Rock the interrobang. If an agent rejects you manuscript on the grounds of a single instance of punctuation you do not want to be represented by him.
     
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  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    We should all be so lucky as to turn down a publisher. :p
     
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  14. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    There are things that I do with my writing, and the interrobang is one of them, that are "incorrect". But I do them because I like them that way. If a publisher wants to change my voice there are tons of self publishing options for me to take.
     
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  15. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    On the other hand I can't even get replies when I post something here, so maybe the whole thing is screwed.
     
  16. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    You're not looking at an attractive alternative. In the example given, were you, before you presented the line, to make the reader know what caused her to react that way, as she knows it, and do it well, the reader will "hear" the words in the tone they would use were-they-her.

    Look at a simple line like: "You really are a bastard, Lucas," he said.

    How did you read it? Angrily? As high praise? As a doctor reading a DNA report? Somewhere between?

    My point is that you can't tell as you read, which is true of a lot of lines of dialog. And what good does it do to append a tag of, "Mark said, angrily," if the reader has already made the mistake of reading it as praise? See the problem?

    But had the line been:

    Mark glared at the man who had been responsible for the death of his son. Were there not armed men in the room, just waiting for an excuse to kill him as well, it would end here and now. But soon you'll be alone. And then... But now wasn't the time, so he simply nodded, flicked a glance at the other men, and said, "You really are a bastard Lucas."

    Or:

    Mark leaned back in his seat. Who else, in the entire world, other than Lucas Hamilton could have successfully pulled the leg of the president of the United States, in public, and not only got away with it, he got President Campbell to nearly fall down laughing.

    He shook his head. "You really are a bastard Lucas."

    In both cases you knew how to read the line without my having to explain it after the speech was made. That technique works for any emotion, and eliminated most bangs, and any need for the interobang. And best of all, the reader doesn't learn how the words were spoken, they're made to speak them, and to feel the emotion the protagonist is feeling, in real-time and in concert with the protagonist.

    And that's the difference between telling and showing.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    more than one closing mark is never correct usage and won't make it past a decent editor... period!!!
     
  18. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    Avoid distractions, such as newer marks that readers may not have encountered. Keep it simple. Be sparing with exclamation points. As JayG so aptly points out, if you need punctuation to tell the reader your character's mood, your words aren't pulling their own weight.
     
  19. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Sorry, but I was not discussing the difference between showing and telling. The sentence you used, "You really are a bastard, Lucas." is not both a question and an exclamation whereas my original line was. It may not have been a good line and I agree, there was no scene setting but that was the point, the interpretation of the line as a question and an exclamation and the use of both ! and ?
     
  20. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Unfortunately, that's where some writers that change their ways and think they can get away with things, lose readers/fans.
     
  21. vera2014
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    vera2014 Contributing Member

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    This one would work for me:
    "How could you!" she screamed.
    If she's screaming at someone then it's implied that she's angry so that part can be edited out. Also, "she screamed" could be dropped too depending on where it is in the conversation. The last one in your list...I've never seen it used in any novel.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2014
  22. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Right, so definitely the interrobang.
     
  23. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The interrobang is a non-standard hack. As the sentence is written, it should contain a question mark. However, an exclamation point is arguably appropriat as well, because the phrase isn't really a question t all, eventhough it is worded like one.

    "How could you?" she shrieked.
    -or-
    "How could you!" she shrieked.

    No doubled or overstruck punctuation.
     
  24. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    It was accepted into unicode. Next you'll tell me that I can't submit my manuscript in Wingdings.
     
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  25. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I think it says something that it has a name. Might be worth considering if one is writing future or past fiction.
     

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