Happy? (National) Punctuation Day!

Yikes! Is that an interrobang?!

Bring our your semicolons; your paragraph-signaling pilcrows; your derided exclamation marks! Today is National Punctuation Day (in case you hadn't heard).

If you're not a punctuation stickler, you probably know one. It's the person who is always banging on about misused "quotation" marks and the confusion between you're and your. Today may be their day, but it's not just for corrective scolds.

This is also the day to celebrate obscure punctuation marks. They might not be found on a keyboard, but with some sophisticated coding or old-school Wingdings font -- or an even more old-fashioned pen -- you can add some rarely used, totally useful punctuation marks to your correspondence.

Here are a few:

The interrobang: A combination exclamation point and question mark, the interrobang is a singular way to express an emphatic question. As in, "What?! It's National Punctuation Day?!"

The pilcrow: The character that looks like a fancy backward capital P is called the pilcrow; it's used to mark the break between paragraphs. It came into use when scribes needed a character to show where one paragraph ended and the next began and fell into disuse (save for faithful editors) with the regular type of a printing press.

The guillemet: To Americans, << this >> looks like two sets of arrows. To a French reader, it looks like quotation marks. Use them and be <<oh so Continental.>>

The irony mark: For English-speakers, an upside-down exclamation point at the beginning of a sentence has intermittently been used to indicate irony. You can be part of its latest resurgence.

The quasi-quote: Put an underscore under a quotation mark and you'll get a quasi-quote, found in science fiction fanzines. It indicates that what's inside the quotes is the gist of what was being said, but perhaps not the exact phrasing.

The fascinating blog Shady Characters is the source for the last two of these, and has an abundance of punctuation fun. Last year, proprietor Keith Houston published the book "Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks" with Bloomsbury.

Picking it up would be one way to celebrate Punctuation Day. Another is to make your own punctuation cocktails, offered during London Design Week this year: The Type Ice Tea, Ampersand Fizz and Pilcrow Fashioned.

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