Beyond the interrobang and the pling!

Beyond the interrobang and the pling!

By Brad Dodge on December 6th, 2012

It seems like I'm constantly re-writing sentences to avoid the risk of the reader misinterpreting my intent, given the paltry number of punctuation marks available to me. And I'm not even a writer. Think about it. Sentences end with a period, a question mark or an exclamation point. That's it. Humph.

Well, except for the interrobang, which I feel has fallen just SLIGHTLY out of vogue.

It's not enough. And as far as I can tell, intra-sentence inflection techniques exist only by using a more extended vocabulary. You can't write "I was flabbergasted" and not have the reader understand the emotion.

So, here are four examples of where we need more punctuation marks.

Exclamation points
I struggle almost every time I need to use an exclamation point. It never feels right. Consider the simple phrase "Good to hear from you." If I end it with a period, it doesn't sound like it has any emotion at all, like it's perhaps only MARGINALLY good to hear from them. Yet if I say "Good to hear from you!" to a business acquaintance, it borders on sounding a little creepy. I need something in between. And absent said mark, I wind up rewriting the sentence, using more words (and time) to pump emotion into the period-ending sentence ("Alas, I appreciate you reaching out to me because it indeed has been a while since our last correspondence.) I choose this approach--beefing up the period rather than toning down the exclamation point--mainly because it's impossible to tone down an exclamation point. Have you ever tried it?.

I'm bored! I'm depressed! I hate you! See what I mean?

(Besides, we've used the exclamation point since the fifteenth century. Haven't we evolved?)

(And who remembers the old typewriters that couldn't even spare enough real estate to have an exclamation point? If you wanted one, you typed an apostrophe, backspaced and typed a period. )

You all know some. Maybe you even ARE one. A multi-pointer!!! Where one exclamation point can't even remotely capture the emotion the writer is trying to include in the sentence. "What a great meeting!!!! You were awesome!!!! I'm POSITIVE we nailed this deal!!!!!" 

If you ever see me doing this, please call me and talk me off the ledge.

Not a solution either.  :) works if you're trying to be cute and :( is great for being sad about something, even ;) and ;0 can work for some things (never from me, but I'm not judging). But what about "Good to hear from you :)" I don't think so.

The need for the pronunciation arrow
"Are you going now?" when said as in "Do you intend to leave?" is very different from "Are you going now?" as in "Aw, don't leave yet."

And still again different from "Are you going now?" as in "Isn't it about time you left?

All three examples are completely different, and so, they can't be written in a non-ambiguous way without adding a whole lot more explanatory words. Why? Lack of punctuation marks. Maybe there's a way of adding a directional arrow to each word in the sentence so the reader knows how to pronounce the sentence and therefore grasps its intended meaning. 
"Do you intend to leave?" becomes "Are (down) you (down) going (up) now (up)?"
"Aw, don't leave yet." becomes Are (down) you (up) going (down) now down)?"
"Isn't it about time you left?" becomes Are (up) you (up) going (down) now (down)?"

Or "It's cloudy." As in "I'm really surprised that the sun is not out" vs "It's cloudy" as in "Wah, I wanted to go to the beach."

"I'm really surprised that the sun is not out" becomes "It's(down) cloud(up)y(down)"
"Wah, I wanted to go to the beach." becomes It's (up) cloud(down)y(down)
How about "Try it!" as in "I urge you to check out this great thing!"
vs. "Try it!" as in "There will be grave consequences if you get in my face." The pronunciations are exactly the same, but the meaning is totally different. 

We work with healthcare innovators every day. Maybe we should commission one of them to solve this huge communication problem. It is huge, right?

Perhaps I ought to just stick to talking, and let the professionals do the writing. I mean, I work with writers every day and I never hear THEM complaining about this issue. Thanks for reading!!!!!!!