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Use of ?!

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Laurence, Jun 17, 2016.

  1. Laurence

    Laurence Inkling

    Quick question. I just came across this sentence in my WIP:

    "Where is your god now?!"

    The speaker is questioning and exclaiming and is saying it in a joking way to a friend after winning a game.

    Is "?!" something people actually use in literature? I imagine not. If not, would you use the question mark and state or imply that the speaker was shouting?
  2. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    I'd use a question mark and just use description of the speaker (body language, tone of voice) to convey the rest of it.
    Demesnedenoir likes this.
  3. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

    ?! is fine to me. There isn't any viable alternative when you require the emphasis of an exclamation point and the suggestion of a question mark.
  4. Russ

    Russ Istar

    I try to avoid exclamation marks as much as I can. I am with FV, go with the question mark and another means of conveying the urgency part.
  5. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    I find I too don't generally need the exclamation mark. The emphasis can be derived from the context and description.
    Malik likes this.
  6. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    I second what Gryphos says.
  7. It is allowable, but I generally find I have needed one of those in over 300k words.
  8. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    I am anti-!? except under a circumstance of maybe quoting a character's email or something.

    I expect agents and editors would see it as either amateur or lazy. Of course I could be entirely wrong, but I'd go with FV's suggestion. I honestly don't recall ever seeing ?! in house published work, outside of maybe kids' stuff? Sure don't remember any.
  9. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

    An exclamation can be in the form of a declaration, question, command or interjection. So you could go with just the exclamation point instead of just the question mark.

    I don't mind ?!. (Though now that I added the period, it kinda sucks. Huh.) I agree with the above post in that you should expect agents and editors to mind. They often mind not-famous people breaking the rules that famous people break. If you're self-publishing, the ?! won't prevent you from being read, and if you get a lot of criticism, I'm 99+% certain your harshest critic won't even mention the ?!. (Unless it's accompanied by a period, in which case you'll get 1* reviews no matter how awesome your story.)
  10. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

    Me too. You never put the exclamation point before the question mark. That's evil.
    Gryphos and Ireth like this.
  11. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    My favourite punctuation mark, the interrobang ‽ is available on our very own MS Forum!
    risu likes this.
  12. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

    That looks like a currency symbol.
  13. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

    AL: How much for that doggie in the window?!

    BOB: ‽500.

    AL: ‽500?!‽ What a rip off?!.
  14. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

    I don't have a problem with any kind of punctuation, provided it is being used correctly.

    From what I understand, the proper order for the marks should be, "!?". The one exception is when the sentence ends with a title, and the title ends with a "?" (As in - "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?")
  15. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Until recently, I shared this sentiment. It changed in the past several weeks as I've discovered book after book with many !!!! for pages and pages. To be honest, I didn't really notice at first because I was so engrossed in the story. But the picky writer in me eventually caught on and now I wonder just how important keeping exclamation marks down really is?!?!?!?!

  16. Lunaairis

    Lunaairis Sage

    "What are we going to do now!?"

    I think is fine if the context fits right. Generally I'd do something like this;

    "What are we going to do now?" The rogue exclaimed holding the snapped grappling hook in hand as he looked back to the charging army of guards.
  17. Velka

    Velka Sage

    I will use '!?' when emailing friends or texting, but in professional emails or my writing it just feels a little juvenile to me. Same goes for exclamation marks on their own. I think punctuation is one of those things that is there, but people don't specifically notice it. It's more of an involuntary response. It's much more powerful to show emotion through other means.
  18. Velka

    Velka Sage

    Interrobang sounds like a form of torture.

    "General, the prisoner isn't speaking. We've tried water boarding and playing "Barbie Girl" for three hours straight, but he won't give up the location of the bomb."

    "It's time to step up our tactics son."

    "Surely you don't mean...."

    "Desperate times, call for desperate measures. Prepare the interrobang."
    Ireth and Lunaairis like this.
  19. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I was taught that I should learn to write in such a way that the words themselves carry the sentence without needing decoration.

    I know, I know. Terribly old school to the point of pedantic snobbery. My gears to not seize up at the sight of an exclamation point, though it did happen with a couple of my professors. But their insistence, while I was still young and malleable, did force me to learn to make my sentences do their own work. It forced me to choose my words and even to structure my sentences with an eye to making the exclamation point irrelevant, and the question mark to appear only when unavoidable.

    So, go ahead and use whatever you wish. Some readers will ignore it, a few may admire it, and it may irk some. Do keep in mind, though, that you are passing up an opportunity to sharpen your prose.
    FifthView and Demesnedenoir like this.
  20. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    I'm with Skip, do what you want, but beware. If you are writing children's, YA, MG or a fun modern informal voice of various types it won't matter much, if you want street cred with the literary, it's probably not a good idea to use ?! or !?. Traditional publishing with adult fiction, I'd expect a fight with the agent/editor if you want to keep it in. Heck, if I tried to slip that by my editor and they didn't gripe I'd know they were either spacing off or too sucked into the story to notice, LOL.

    Personally, if I were into a book and I saw ?! it would break my immersion for a splash but not kill it... I see that on the first page of a book it better be awesome except for that or I'm throwing it back on the shelf with a smirk. Of course I am writing/usage snob, so a grain of salt with that.

    Because you see something pub'd doesn't mean to do it. For God's sake just because 50 Shades had success DO NOT write like that! heh heh. There isn't a "proper" order because it is not proper punctuation, but consistent would matter.

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