Dear Kid,

According to the West Wing staff (see yesterday’s blog for the clip), there are fourteen punctuation marks. Specifically:

  1. Period .
  2. Comma ,
  3. Colon :
  4. Semi Colon ;
  5. Exclamation Point !
  6. Apostrophe ‘
  7. Parentheses ( )
  8. Quotation Mark ” “
  9. Question Mark ?
  10. Brackets []
  11. Braces {}
  12. Ellipsis (also spelled ellipse) …
  13. Hyphen –
  14. Dash —

When I investigated punctuation marks, it turns out some people claim there are more than 14. (Who knew?) So being the kind of mother I am, I have decided to share them with you.

Let’s start with a couple you might be familiar with.

  1. Interrobang

The interrobang was a big deal for a while when I was a kid, but I haven’t heard about it in a long time. It’s a combination exclamation-question mark, used for extreme incredulousness. Like if someone were to tell you that Booker stopped shedding. HUH?!!!!!? One interrobang replaces all those ! and ?

  1. Pilcrow ¶

Yes, pilcrow is the official name for the paragraph symbol. If you say “pilcrow” to anyone they will look at you like you’re crazy. This is generally used as an editing mark, but sometimes as a bullet mark in a list.

  1. Section Sign §

The section sign is mostly used by lawyers. It’s a trick they use to confuse those of us who are non-lawyers. Like saying stuff in Latin or using “whereas” in everyday speech.

  1. Sheffer Stroke |

These days it’s more generally referred to as a pipe. Used by math-type people for Boolean functions and some types of calculus. Used by social media people and bloggers to separate parts of a title.

  1. Caret ˆ

This little dude is used to indicate where to add text. Which may make it more of an editing mark than a punctuation mark. I’m not sure who gets to make decisions like that.

  1. Solidus /

Not a slash which is much steeper. Solidus: /Slash:/ see the difference? This is another one that I’m not sure belongs here since it was used (in seriously olden days) in currency instead of a decimal point.

  1. Dagger † or ‡

The dagger is not a punctuation mark used by vampires, although that’s kind of a cool idea. It indicates marks that should be removed from text because the content is extraneous. Again, probably more of an editing mark. Underused by politicians giving speeches.

  1. Asterim *

Not to be confused with an asterisk. Asterim: * Asterik: * (pay attention, there will be a quiz later). It is used to indicate breaks in text.

  1. Because Sign

Three little dots in a triangle shape—an upside down therefore sign. No one, but no one, uses this.

  1. The French Six

Once upon a time in the 1960s, the French author Hervé Bazin proposed a series of six innovative punctuation marks:

  • the “irony point“ or “irony mark” (point d’ironie: ψ kind of looks like a trident)
  • the “love point” (point d’amour: looks like a question mark and a backward question mark–kind of a heart with a dot underneath)
  • the “certitude point” (point de conviction: an exclamation with a dash across it)
  • the “authority point” (point d’autorité: an up arrow as an exclamation point)
  • the “acclamation point” (point d’acclamation: two exclamation points sharing a dot)
  • the “doubt point” (point de doute: a question mark that got slammed in door)

Obviously, these caught on brilliantly and are used by everyone in everyday conversation.

  1. The Patented Marks: Question Comma and Exclamation Comma

First let me explain what they are. The question comma is a question mark but with a comma on the bottom instead of a dot. The exclamation point is similar; exclamation point with a common underneath. The idea was that these can be used in the middle of a sentence. My idea is they are stupid. The creator of these marks applied for an international patent in 1992. I feel fairly strongly that any punctuation mark that needs patent protection shouldn’t be allowed.

  1. Snark

This may be my favorite, non-standard punctuation mark (and by “non-standard” I mean not required by President Bartlett on the West Wing). The snark (can I tell you how much I love saying that?) is a backward question mark and is also called the percontation point and the irony mark (isn’t it nice to have nicknames?). It is used to indicate sarcasm or irony. Can you image how much use I could get out of this?

Hope you have a !!! day.

Love, Mom