April 23, 2021

The Interrobang–that’s for me!

By John Guy LaPlante

And maybe for you!

The interro….. what?

The interrobang! Yes, you read right. What’s the interrobang? You see it at the left, but greatly enlarged. It’s a brand-new punctuation mark. You know, in addition to the period, comma, colon, question mark, exclamation mark, and so on.  Which all go back a long, long time. Well, the interrobang truly would be useful to me as an active writer / blogger.

What is so interesting about it to me is that I have been doing exactly what the interrobang does. How? By using two standard punctuation marks together. I repeat, together. You’ve probably never seen that, have you?

Here’s an example. In my most recent blog about a Seed Library, I wrote “Yes, from our library here, you  can check out seeds, and free, mind you–vegetable seeds,  fruit seeds, berry seeds, seeds of other kinds, would you believe?!”

Notice how I used a question mark and an exclamation mark together? Deliberately. Because I wasn’t only asking a question but telling you I was astonished. And I believe it worked. I’m sure you got it.

I didn’t pick up this trick of two punctuation marks slapped together from somebody else.  The idea came to me because I felt that together they did the job I believed was needed. I’ve never seen anyone else do it.

How did I hear about the interrobang? I happened to pick up a recent issue of the Reader’s Digest–September, this year. At the public library, by the way. The magazine kicked off with a section called “Genius Issue–Words of the Mind.” The issue had a lode of articles about words and writing. Delightful! On Page 82 I discovered the interrobang punctuation mark that I showed you up top. There was one paragraph about it. It said what I’ve just told you.

Right away I looked up interrobang on Wikipedia. It said interrobang is “a non-standard punctuation mark indicating a question in an exclamation manner, as in ‘What are you doing?’!” It said it was invented by advertising man Martin K. Speckter back in 1962. Yes, in 1962. What?!

See, I just used this powerful duo of mine again! Because I’m curious about the date, 1962, which is 55 years ago…yet I am just hearing about it now!  And I’ll bet so are you! Again, a linked  question and exclamation.

Curious me, I looked up interrobang on Merriam-Webster, our leading dictionary publisher. It defined it the same way.

I read that Mr. Speckter as an advertising pro saw a need for it in many ads by the very nature of advertising. Well, I saw a need for my duo in the explanatory writing that is my forte. I am so, so happy now to have the interrobang in my writer’s toolbox, along with all the conventional punctuation marks. The interrobang will come in handy.

You know, at one time punctuation marks did not exist. When we speak, of course, they are unnecessary. The tone of our voice says it all, well, along with the expression on our face. Periods and commas and question marks came into use one by one because thoughtful writers saw their necessity.

All that said, I’ve run into a problem. When I write with pad and pen, it’s easy for me to put in a real interrobang. I just write an exclamation mark right over my question mark. But I do 99 percent of my writing on a keyboard. The interrobang ain’t on the keyboard!

So, I’ll just have to keep getting along with my own little combo, my home-made interrobang. How about that?!

P.S. if you’re intrigued by writing and words, do look up that September issue of the Reader’s Digest. Its piece on the interrobang includes 11 other punctuation marks that are hardly known. Yes, 11!

Another I loved was “Confessions by a Word Nerd (Kay Stamper): Inside the secret, silent work lives of dictionary writers.” Plus a delightful humor piece, “Sleuthing for Cliches: A tongue-in-cheek guide to government-speak run amok.”

And other juicy pieces on this word / writing theme, along with other good stuff. Plus two word delights that have been included in the magazine months after month since its dawn, it seems to me.  The “Word Power” game and “Quotable Quotes” from people in the news.

By the way, I just Googled “Reader’s Digest Confessions of a Word Nerd.” And I found it. I also scored with “Reader’s Digest Little-Known Punctuation Marks We Should be Doing.” Isn’t that something?!

All this said, I do  feel a twinge of guilt about showing you how to enjoy these articles online for free. I should be pushing you to buy the Reader’s Digest to enjoy these delights. It would be pocket money well spent. But the paper September issue is probably unavailable (unless you find it at your public library). And enjoying these pieces through Google may get you to subscribe! Gosh, aren’t I good at rationalizing?!

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Hello, my online friends!

I call you “Friends’ for good reason.  It’s because I consider you a friend that I am sending you this premier post of mine!

I want you to know I have just launched a new website (www.johnguylaplante.com/wp). This very post that you are reading right now is an essential part of it. Visit my website at any time and you will locate this blog!  And be able to read my various posts.

Or get this post, or any that I email you in the future, and you can use it as a door into my website. I tell you this because I believe you will enjoy my website. and with a click you can discover my whole website! How about that?

If you are not, you can get to my website right after reading this.

You are not receiving this announcement by accident! And not because I downloaded a list of email addresses from somebody which happened to include yours. No! You are receiving this because I deliberately added you. And I did that because the two of us have had personal contact. Maybe long  and intense and frequent and ongoing. Maybe  brief and light and momentary. But, yes,  the two of us have had a personal contact!

I put you on my list because I sensed that you  have an interest in many things and like to read. Yes, like to read!   This is why you’re receiving this. Many people hate to read. This is one reason why TV is so popular.

No way can I assure you what you will receive  next from me. I am interested in many things. Write a wide variety of things.  In fact, I never know what I’ll write about next. Here is the simple truth: I write about something because it interests me, and feel it will interest you.

I’ll be candid with you.  One of the posts that you receive may have been created just an hour or two before i dispatched it to you. But it may be something that I wrote a while ago.  Maybe just a month ago. Or a year ago. Something that you may already have seen as I write for digital newspapers and even print publications still. But for most of you, no. My post may be totally fresh for you.

Maybe you’ll just skim a post of mine. Or flat out reject it. Or devour it and look forward to more.  Even subscribe to my blog–it’s free and you incur no obligation of any kind.  You may even write a comment or two about one of my posts. Perfect! I’d love that.

On the other hand, you may even be annoyed to receive it! If so, let me know. I’ll delete you from my list. Sob! But I won’t hold it against you. I promise.

About a “blog” and a “post.”  These are newfangled words. I’m just getting used to them myself. A blog is an electronic letter to a group of people. With a lot of content, or just a little. It has a name that is constant. Like a newspaper or a magazine. A post is the content that you receive. This alert to you is a post. My very first to you!

My blog will bring you one post after another. All the posts will always be available here, in this blog. The latest post will always be at the top of what will become a longer and longer string of posts. You can look at one of them at any time. Just  by skimming down the string, or using the Find or Search function that I’m sure you have.

A blog may go to a few readers or to thousands. In my case, it is going to 352. Yes, 352 friends. The number may go up or down. I hope it will go up. Yes, up, up, up. Who knows? It may go out regularly–every day or week or month. Or sporadically– just now or then. The posts may arrive three days in a row, or skip a week, or a month.

And a blog has a distinctive feature. It invites comments back!  How wonderful, and for both parties.

Writing comments is easy, as you will see. You may say anything you want. Agree with me. Disagree with me. Either way, I’ll find it interesting. Unfortunately, some people abuse this wonderful feature. Use it to promote an agenda or sell a product or service or simply to annoy. I ask you: please do not do this to me! Keeping up with comments can be a chore as well as a pleasure. And I’m already busy. Don’t want to waste my time trashing junk!

I’m still not sure how often you will get my posts. When you do, it’s because I believe I am giving you something you’ll consider worthwhile.

Remember, there is no money in this for me. Oh, maybe it will lead you to buy a book or two of mine. Or to invite me to give a talk to  your club or library or church or some other group. That would be nice. But not all-important.

I’m doing this because I’m a writer, and it’s a rare writer who writes only for himself. Oh, there are closet diarists, of course.

(I was such during my 27 months as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine–those daily diary entries became the fount of facts which became essential when I wrote my Peace Corps book. I filled five notebooks in all–954 crammed, hand-written pages.)

But mostly, writers write because they have something to say and need people to say it to.

I just thought back for a minute. Know what? This is the 58th year that I write for publication. My oh my!

Yes, this is the premier issue of my blog for you. But it’s a premier for me, too. A new outlet for me, though I won’t drop others I have.  In fact, I consider this a brand-new adventure! I’ve had some great adventures, as you may know. Let’s see how this one develops. For both of us.

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