Happy Punctuation Day!

Punctuation marks

Well, in honour of this very special day, I would like to share a few lesser-known punctuation marks with you.

Caret

First, let’s meet the caret. Not to be confused with the kind of carats you look for in gold. The caret is also known as a wedge, a circumflex, or a hat (chapeau in French). It looks like this:


The caret comes from Latin and means “it lacks” — this is fitting because in proofreading a caret is often used to signify that something is missing from the original text and should be inserted in the spot the caret points to.

Pilcrow

Many of us are likely familiar with the pilcrow, but never knew it was called that. It is sometimes referred to as a blind P, a paragraph mark, or an alinea. A pilcrow is a funny-looking backward-P with two vertical lines. It looks like this:

The pilcrow comes from the Middle Ages and was used by specialized scribes, known as rubricators (who were essentially early desktop publishers), to indicate a new train of thought. This was before the use of distinct paragraphs became the default.

Interrobang

And finally, let’s meet the interrobang, a more modern piece of punctuation that combines an exclamation mark with a question mark. It has really taken off in recent years and here’s what it looks like:

Depending of whether or not you watch Mad Men, you may or may not be surprised to find out that an advertising executive came up with the interrobang in the 1960s. While it is not generally used in formal writing, it is a great way to express excitement and disbelief or ask a rhetorical question.

So enjoy this day and make sure you punctuate it with all the enthusiasm it deserves!

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Image credit: Dzmitry Lameika / PhotoXpress.com

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8 thoughts on “Happy Punctuation Day!

  1. I know both the top two–what their purpose is (didn’t know their names). Never heard of the bottom one. I kinda dig it since I’ve been known to ask questions ending in an interrobang. 🙂

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