Illustration by Ziauddin
Illustration by Ziauddin

We all know how important punctuation marks are in our scripts, because punctuation fills our writing with expression. We pause, stop, emphasise, or question using a comma, a period, an exclamation point or a question mark.

Correct punctuation adds clarity and precision to writing. No doubt, it has the power to make sense and has the power to take away all that made sense.

I am sure by now, most of you know the basics of it. However, there are times when we want to express more than the commonly used period, comma, question mark or exclamation mark, and then we take the help of the inbuilt symbols on our computers and mobile phones.

But did you know there are certain punctuation marks that we don’t use, yet with their peculiar shape, they have a proper meaning and usage. So, let’s find out what these are. Besides, why not use something unique and impress your friends and teachers with your writing skill?

Interrobang

This punctuation mark combines a question mark ? and an exclamation mark ! — that is This is used to express excitement plus disbelief at the same time, for instance:

“You don’t read Young World” or “He did what”

The interrobang was invented by advertising executive Martin Speckter in 1962. According to him, interrobang can be used when a writer wishes to convey amazement and doubt. The name is derived from the Latin word interrogatio, which means “questioning,” and bang — how printers refer to the exclamation mark.

Percontation point or Rhetorical question mark

The backward question mark was proposed by printer Henry Denham in the 16th century as an end to a rhetorical question. It is used at the end of a question that doesn’t require an answer; however, rhetorical question mark died out in the 17th century.

Example: So clever! Who knewOr who cares

Irony mark

Irony mark has been in use as early as the 1600s. But it was first printed in the mid-1800s. Irony mark was put before a sentence to indicate its tone before it was read. There are many authors associated with using this punctuation mark, such as British philosopher John Wilkins; Alcanter de Brahm, who introduced his own irony mark and, in 1966, French author Hervé Bazin proposed the widely known irony mark. It looks a bit like an exclamation point with a lowercase U through the middle.

Certitude or the conviction point

This mark is another invention of Harve Bazin. It is an exclamation mark with a line through it . The idea behind the symbol was to use it when you are certain about something, but not excited enough to use an exclamation point instead. I guess this mark is every mum’s favourite as it conveys total conviction.

As Phil Jamieson (musician) writes in a blog, “This punctuation would best be used instead of writing in all caps.”

Example: “We are not going to the cinema and that’s final ”.

Love point

Composed of two mirrored question marks that form a heart and share one dot at the bottom. This mark was also introduced by Bazin, the mark was used at the end of an affectionate statement.

Example: “Happy Anniversary ” or

“I love my puppies ”

Acclamation point

Another invention by Harve Bazin, an acclamation mark was intended to be used when expressing a goodwill or welcome.

Example: “I’m so happy to see you”, Or “Long live Pakistan”.

Doubt point

This is yet another creation of Bazin. It is interesting that he has covered a lot of crucial situations where we need to clear our texts to the readers. Doubt point is the opposite of certitude point, it looks like a cross between letter Z and a question mark. The mark is used to end a sentence with a note of scepticism.

For example: “You think you are going to the cinema.”

Sarc mark

Sarc is short for sarcasm, the mark is a swirl with a dot in the middle. It was invented by a-father-and-a-son team from Michigan named Paul and Doug Sak. They debuted it in 2010.

Although it started a wave of publicity across mainstream media, they trademarked their symbol and charged for digital fonts that let writers include it in their documents. None of this came cheap; therefore, they faced a gradual decline in the popularity and the use.

Example: “Ha ha ha, that’s funny” or “Good luck with that”.

Snark mark

Created by typographer Choz Cunningham in 2007. It’s just a period followed by a tilde, and is used to indicate that a sentence should be understood beyond the literal meaning.

For example, if you are on a long-awaited beach vacation and there is a hurricane looming, everyone is requested to stay safe until the hurricane is gone. One can say,

“Amazing weather! I am glad we came here”

Exclamation comma and question comma

So if you ever want to show delight and confusion without ending your sentence use any of the above marks.

According to the Huffington Post, Leonard Storch, Ernst van Haagen and Sigmund Silber created both the exclamation comma and the question comma — an exclamation mark with a comma for a bottom point, and a question mark with a comma for a point, respectively — in 1992. The patent for the marks (which expired in 1995) reads:

“Using two new punctuation marks, the question comma and the exclamation comma … inquisitiveness and exclamation may be expressed within a written sentence structure, so that thoughts may be more easily and clearly conveyed to readers. The new punctuation marks are for use within a written sentence between words as a comma, but with more feeling or inquisitiveness. Moreover, the new punctuation fits rather neatly into the scheme of things, simply filling a gap, with a little or no explanation needed.”

Example: “That python is really big and scary ()but don’t worry, he’s not going to eat you.”

“Do you think I need it (question comma ”

Asterism

This triangular pile of asterisks has been used to divide subchapters in books and to indicate minor breaks in long text; it was used as late as the 1850s. However, most books these days just use three stars in a row for breaks within chapters (***) or simply skip an extra line.

Published in Dawn, Young World, September 24th, 2022

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