Irony punctuation

Irony punctuation
apostrophe ( ’ ' )
brackets ( [ ], ( ), { }, ⟨ ⟩ )
colon ( : )
comma ( , )
dash ( , –, —, ― )
ellipsis ( …, ..., . . . )
exclamation mark ( ! )
full stop/period ( . )
guillemets ( « » )
hyphen ( )
hyphen-minus ( - )
question mark ( ? )
quotation marks ( ‘ ’, “ ”, ' ', " " )
semicolon ( ; )
slash/stroke ( / )
solidus ( )
Word dividers
space ( ) ( ) ( ) (␠) (␢) (␣)
interpunct ( · )
General typography
ampersand ( & )
at sign ( @ )
asterisk ( * )
backslash ( \ )
bullet ( )
caret ( ^ )
copyright symbol ( © )
dagger ( †, ‡ )
degree ( ° )
ditto mark ( )
inverted exclamation mark ( ¡ )
inverted question mark ( ¿ )
number sign/pound/hash ( # )
numero sign ( )
obelus ( ÷ )
ordinal indicator ( º, ª )
percent etc. ( %, ‰, )
pilcrow ( )
prime ( ′, ″, ‴ )
registered trademark ( ® )
section sign ( § )
service mark ( )
sound recording copyright ( )
tilde ( ~ )
trademark ( )
underscore/understrike ( _ )
vertical/broken bar, pipe ( ¦, | )
currency (generic) ( ¤ )
currency (specific)
( ฿ ¢ $ ƒ £ ¥ )
Uncommon typography
asterism ( )
tee ( )
up tack ( )
index/fist ( )
therefore sign ( )
because sign ( )
interrobang ( )
irony & sarcasm punctuation ( )
lozenge ( )
reference mark ( )
tie ( )
diacritical marks
whitespace characters
non-English quotation style ( « », „ ” )
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Although in the written English language there is no standard way to denote irony or sarcasm, several forms of punctuation have been proposed. Among the oldest and frequently attested are the percontation point invented by English printer Henry Denham in the 1580s, and the irony mark, furthered by French poet Alcanter de Brahm in the 19th century. Both of these marks were represented visually by a backwards question mark (unicode U+2E2E reversed question mark). The character can also be represented on Windows by using the Alt code 1567. Using LaTeX, one can display it by including the graphicx package, and then using \reflectbox?.[1]

These punctuation marks are primarily used to indicate that a sentence should be understood at a second level. A bracketed exclamation point and/or question mark as well as scare quotes are also sometimes used to express irony or sarcasm.


Percontation point

The modern question mark (? U+003F) is descended from the "punctus interrogativus" (described as "a lightning flash, striking from right to left"),[2] but unlike the modern question mark, the punctus interrogativus may be contrasted with the punctus percontativus—the former marking questions that require an answer while the latter marks rhetorical questions.[3]

This percontation point ( Irony mark full.svg ), later also referred to as a rhetorical question mark, was invented by Henry Denham in the 1580s and was used at the end of a question which does not require an answer--a rhetorical question. Its use died out in the 17th century. It was the reverse of an ordinary question mark, so that instead of the main opening pointing back into the sentence, it opened away from it.[4] This character can be represented using the reversed question mark (Irony mark full.svg) found in Unicode as U+2E2E.


A sentence ending with an interrobang () can be used to ask a rhetorical question in addition to expressing excitement or disbelief in the form of a question.

Irony mark

The irony mark or irony point ( ) (French: point d’ironie) is a punctuation mark proposed by the French poet Alcanter de Brahm (alias Marcel Bernhardt) at the end of the 19th century used to indicate that a sentence should be understood at a second level (e.g. irony, sarcasm, etc.). It is illustrated by a small, elevated, backward-facing question mark.[3][5]

It was in turn taken by Hervé Bazin in his book Plumons l’Oiseau ("Let's pluck the bird", 1966), in which the author proposes several other innovative punctuation marks, such as the "doubt point" (Point de doute.svg), "certitude point" (Point de certitude.svg), "acclamation point" (Point d'acclamation.svg), "authority point" (Point d'autorité.svg), "indignation point" (Point d'indignation.svg), and "love point" (Point d'amour.svg).

Scare quotes

Scare quotes are a particular use of quotation marks. They are placed around a word or phrase to indicate that the word or phrase is not used in the fashion that the writer would personally use it. In contrast to the nominal typographic purpose of quotation marks, the enclosed words are not necessarily quoted from another source.

Temherte slaqî

In certain Ethiopic languages, sarcasm and unreal phrases are indicated at the end of a sentence with a sarcasm mark called temherte slaqî or temherte slaq (U+00A1) ( ¡ ), a character that looks like the inverted exclamation point.[6]

Other typography

Rhetorical questions in some informal situations can use a bracketed question mark, e.g. "Oh, really[?]"--The equivalent for an ironic or sarcastic statement would be a bracketed exclamation mark, e.g. "Oh, really[!]". Subtitles, such as in Teletext, sometimes use an exclamation mark within brackets or parentheses to mark sarcasm: (!). Likewise, Karl Marx uses the exclamation mark within brackets repeatedly throughout Das Kapital, Volume 1. For example, in one instance, to ridicule Colonel Torrens: "The problem is in no way simplified if extraneous matters are smuggled in, as with Colonel Torrens: 'effectual demand consists in the power and inclination [!], on the part of the consumers, to give for commodities, either by immediate or circuitous barter...'".[7]

The question mark can also be used as a "meta" sign to signal uncertainty regarding what precedes. It is usually put between parentheses ["(?)"]. The uncertainty may concern either a superficial aspect of the text (such as unsure spelling) or a deeper level of meaning.[citation needed]

It is common in online conversation among computer specialists to use a pseudo-HTML element: <sarcasm></sarcasm>.[8][not in citation given] Many times, the opening tag is omitted, due to the HTML tagging often being an afterthought. Similarly, and common in social-news-based sites, is a single /s placed at the end of a comment to indicate a sarcastic tone for the preceding text. A "rolling eyes" emoticon is often used as well, particularly in instant messaging, while a Twitter-style hashtag, #sarcasm, is also gaining currency.

Emoticons can also be used in text, most often in informal writing, to denote sarcasm.

See also


  1. ^ Flynn, Peter. Typography. TUGboat, vol. 28, issue 2, p. 172-173. 2007
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Proposal to add Medievalist and Iranianist punctuation characters to the UCS by Michael Everson, Peter Baker, Marcus Dohnicht, António Emiliano, Odd Einar Haugen, Susana Pedro, David J. Perry, Roozbeh Pournader.
  4. ^ Truss, Lynne. Eats, Shoots & Leaves, 2003. p. 142. ISBN 1-592-40087-6.
  5. ^ The Snark, 
  6. ^ Asteraye Tsigie, Berhanu Beyene, Daniel Aberra, Daniel Yacob (1999). "A Roadmap to the Extension of the Ethiopic Writing System Standard Under Unicode and ISO-10646". 15th International Unicode Conference. p. 6. 
  7. ^ Marx, Karl (1976 [1867]), Das Kapital, Volume 1, Penguin Classics, p. 264, ISBN 0-140-44568-4 
  8. ^ "HTML 5 Specification section The "in body" insertion mode". W3C. 

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