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So Tell Me: ?!

I've seen interrobangs in the form of "?!" used in a number of published YA books in the last year or two. I'm a fan, but I know others writers weep at the combination. One of my critique partners feels it's lazy writing. She argues it's telling, that one's writing should show the exclamation, and even says it's degrading to formal punctuation.

So Tell Me: How do you feel about "?!" in published books? Love it, hate it? Would you like to see it made into a standard punctuation mark and printed superimposed as invented in the 60s?

35 comments:

  1. You know, I am kind of on the lazy writing bandwagon on this one. Though, given the world of texting and other abbreviated forms these days - I am NOT surprised to see it in published books. I guess like anything it is all about context.

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  2. hmmm...that is strange. I have never seen that before. Well, I think the general concensus is that you shouldn't use exclamation points, right? So, what would be the difference using this "?!" ? I think there are rare occasions where you could, but why? Is it so you can save ink? Because that doesn't seem worth it. But to each his/her own, right?!

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  3. It's definitely distracting for me. I always stop reading and go, "interro-BANG!" But that's probably just me.

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  4. I've used it sparingly to show disbelief. I know others abhor it.

    By the way, I could barely read this post because it's coming up black on black. I'm using Safari.

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  5. Before I was a writer, I used ?! like mad, even ?!?!?!?!. But since I started writing more seriously, I decided to avoid using it in my writing. In chat, okay. On my blog, okay. In my books, not okay.

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  6. Wow, I think it's all about context for me. I would be comfortable seeing it in a blog entry, but I'm not sure how it would strike me in a finished and polished novel. I don't think I'd use "lazy" as my perceptive of it, but I'm also not sure it would strike the chord with me that the author intended. Good post - something to think about:)

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  7. my vote is "no" in a novel. But I don't remember seeing it in anything I've read recently...am I just obvlivious?! ;-)

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  8. I don't think it's a big deal if it's in the right type of book. If it's in a teen book about say the woes of high school and everyone has their iphone ready to text or blog about gossip, ect, I think it's fine, because that's how kids talk/write today. In a sense, it's real life. Clearly, if !? were going into a novel such as Pride and Prejudice it would not work! :)

    Hilary

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  9. I didn't know it had such a rocking name!? Interrobang? It's like Hook. "Bangarang, Peter. Bangarang!"

    Besides that, I think it's a truth (good or bad) of modern day teenage rhetoric. Should it take the place of words? No. Do some kids see it and immediately relate to it. I'm guessing the answer to that is Yes. To further complicate things, I would argue that its use must be sparing and contextually appropriate-- Contemporary tech savvy teen voices, for example.

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  10. I don't think there is a word to describe how stupid I feel right now. I had no idea what this was. I can't recall ever seeing this in a novel. And I'm sure I would have thought it to be a typo or something if I had. Thanks for enlightening me. I'll refrain from opining considering I may be a moron.

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  11. +JMJ+

    I've never really thought about it! I don't mind it so much in informal writing (such as one finds in blogging), but I guess I would consider it a bit lazy if I found it in a book.

    And no, I don't think we should have the new hybrid punctuation mark. I agree with your friend that a good writer, by his final draft, will be able to convey the disbelief of "?!" or "!?" using only words and the punctuation we already have.

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  12. Well, I don't really like the hybrid. But as for finding it in a book, I think it depends on the book and who its intended audience is. I think if it's a book about teens who are constantly texting and always have their phones to hand, it's probably appropriate. But in a YA paranormal, for example, it wouldn't really fit in.

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  13. the first time i ever recall seeing one was in a Garfield comic strip so i would probably shy away from them in my own writing. if someone else used it that wouldn't bother me.

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  14. Wow, I didn't know this had an official name, either. And I haven't seen it (that I remember) in YA. Can you share any of the books you've seen it in, Shannon? It's interesting to see so many people against it here. I think it's kind of fun and wouldn't have a problem with it if it was used sparingly and in the right context.

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  15. I see it in a lot of YA and MG (and even some adult) published novels but it always stands out as wrong in my mind.

    You don't always need the question mark to imply a question. Oftentimes it is placed after something like "What?!"

    The word "what" is always a question so why bother with the question mark if the more important part of the context is that it is said in surprise, which would require an exclamation point.

    "What!"

    reads the same to me as

    "What?!"

    but without the annoying double punctuation.

    I didn't realize it had an official name. And I certainly wouldn't want to see the two superimposed on each other into a single punctuation mark. Ew. That looks a world of wrong.

    However, I've used it myself in blog posts and on twitter and on forums. Which to me, makes it a more casual type of literary technique. Right up there with omg, lol, and wtf. Can we use them? Yes. But it has to be in the correct venue.

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  16. I think it's a fantastic invention for texting. I'm not a big fan of textspeak in fiction, but it can have its place when used sparingly. I'll bet we'll be seeing more of it.

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  17. I'm pretty ambivalent about all of this. I mean I try to follow the rules when I write, but then I read an author like Cormac McCarthy, who doesn't even use quotes for dialog, and I'm amazed.

    I think you can break any rule if you do it on purpose and you do it with style and subtlety. Otherwise, not so much.

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  18. I loved overusing !? a lot. Like, multiple times in a row a lot. I'll still do it in emails to friends, but haven't in actual writing for a long time.

    I think a well-placed one however definitely works.

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  19. Wow, where have you seen them in published books?! I'd totally check out those books!

    I'm all for a well-placed one here or there, one or two per manuscript, tops.

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  20. Although I think the name for it is wonderful, I would have to cast a strong vote against using the interrobang in published books.

    It communicates a lack of professional polish to me, and unless it was describing something that occured in the book that was online somehow (email, chatting, blog post), I don't think it belongs.

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  21. I can't believe it has a name. And I honestly think there are times when only a ?! will do.

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  22. I have to agree with your critique partner. Interrobangs can be confusing to use. It's almost like putting words in all caps when a writer is trying to indicate that the character is shouting. It is a form of lazy writing.

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  23. I actually like it. If you have a question stated with much emotion behind it, then it's necessary to use "?!".

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  24. we love the interrobang so much we named our blog after it!

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  25. I'm kind of on the fence about it. It does have a kind of comic booky feel, and nineteen times out of twenty, there's a way to rewrite the sentence that will both avoid the interrobang and make for stronger writing.

    But what about that last one time out of twenty? For those times, I would feel a whole lot better about it if there were a single, standard punctuation mark, the kind with the question mark and the exclamation point superimposed. Formality somehow makes things a lot more "okay."

    (Plus, it would get rid of the question of whether it should be "?!", "!?", or either depending on context.)

    [/overthinking the issue]

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  26. I use it quite a bit in general writing. I've seen my boss (i work in a law firm) use it in some letters, even.

    It gets across the proper feelings. Sometimes there is just no other way to describe !?

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  27. :) I can't tell you how much this warms my heart. See, Casey? People agree with me! ha

    Love it on a blog. DON'T put it in a book.

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  28. Generally I'd say avoid it.I can see it being part of a particular narrator's voice in certain circumstances, or maybe used sparingly in a certain book, but I wouldn't say it should be any kind of standard.

    As an aside, I remember as a kid hearing my dad referring to these punctuation marks, all by themselves, as meaning "WTF".Don't know if that was some 70's thing or just him, though. :)

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  29. I like'em! But whenever I use them people always makes me take it out so I have never been able to use them outside of casual usage.

    BTW - I think your blog is one of the best resources out there for writers. You do such a fabulous job. I relied heavily on your agent blog posts when I was agent hunting and I'm only now coming around to thank you for all your hard work. I'm actually going to put a big link for your blog in the agent interview board at Verla's that just says - for lots of fabulous agent interviews go here!

    So thanks for all your wonderful work!

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  30. Um, I didn't even know it had a name. Apparently I interrobang (sounds kind of nasty!) quite often in my emails, and maybe even on my blog. But I've never used it in a manuscript. Not that I wouldn't. I guess I'm just that kind of girl...

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  31. I had one in my forthcoming novel, ASHFALL. My editor struck it--and I think the sentence was better without it.

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  32. Sometimes it works though. Have you ever talked to a little kid? This is how they speak. The I-Can't-Believe-It-And-Am-Shocked-But-Also-Questioning this.

    Not to be overused, but sometimes, you just gotta use one.

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  33. I think it's okay in colloquial writing, but not in a published book. I agree that the emotion and all of its nuances should be communicated in the writing.

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  34. Does it bother me? No. Would I use it in my own work? No. I do use ?! while blogging or commenting on the interwebs though.

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  35. I use the ?! combination all the time. Honestly, why shouldn't it become an official punctuation mark to be used everywhere? It obviously has a use that people seem to like to use. Our language changes all the time. Punctuation is only as good as we decide it is!

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