10 Obscure Punctuation Marks That Should Really Get More Play


Recently, we were apprised of a proposed addition to the world of punctuation: the “ElRey Mark,” a symbol that looks a bit like an exclamation point with a dot at each end. As weird as it looks, we actually think it sounds pretty useful — the mark is meant to be read as “somewhere between the deadpan period and the excitable exclamation point.” That is, it’s the perfect punctuation mark for every polite email you’ll ever send. In honor of the ElRey, we’ve put together a list of ten obscure punctuation marks that we’d love to see in print more often. Did we miss your favorite? Think we’re crazy? Let us know in the comments.

The ElRey Mark

This little two-headed exclamation point should be used when you’re cheery, but not over-the-top excited. That is, as Rob Walker explains, “While the new mark would clearly signal positivity, it would save us from communicating with the unhinged emotionality of a note slipped between junior-high students.”

The Irony Mark

Introduced in the 19th century by Alcanter de Brahm, the Irony Mark is exactly what it sounds like — an indicator that the sentence should be understood on “another level.” And the mark generally precedes the sentence, so you know exactly what you’re getting into when you start reading.

The Interrobang

It has all the drama and excitement of “?!” but without having to type two characters. What could be more useful than that?!

The Love Point

Say it with us: awww. This mark, proposed by French author Hervé Bazin in his 1966 essay “Plumons l’Oiseau,” is obviously meant to come after statements of affection. Just to drive the point home, as it were. We think it’s somewhat more elegant that dotting your “i”s with hearts.

The Doubt Point

Another mark proposed by Bazin, this snazzy number imbues your sentence with a note of skepticism — no eyebrow acrobatics required.

The SarcMark

This squiggle, invented by Paul Sak, isn’t the first proposed punctuation mark to denote sarcasm, but it’s definitely the weirdest to look at, so we’re voting for it, if only for absurdity’s sake.

The Asterism

The Asterism is used for minor breaks in text, like a subchapter, which isn’t all that useful. But since this might be one of the cutest little-known punctuation marks of all time, and without question the one with the coolest name, we’re calling for a new usage so we can pepper our essays with it. Start thinking, team.

The Question Comma and the Exclamation Comma

For when you want to ask questions and/or express excitement in the middle of a sentence. Now that’s just darn useful. Especially for those prone to run-ons.

The Acclamation Point

Another of Bazin’s creations, he described this one as “the stylistic representation of those two little flags that float above the tour bus when a president comes to town.” Obviously, that is something we need to be able to evoke in everyday prose.

The Authority Point

For when you want your reader to know that you know what you’re talking about. In case they, um, couldn’t tell from context. It’s the typographical equivalent of “I swear you guys, I’m an expert.”