English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What is the proper way of writing an exclamative question:

  1. What are you doing!?
  2. What are you doing?!

or is it better to just leave it as a simple question?

share|improve this question
Interesting question. You don't see "!?" in formal writing, but I think it's valuable. – Jeremy Sep 15 '11 at 14:40
up vote 7 down vote accepted

According to the Interrobang wikipedia page, this symbol [‽] has been created to convey the meaning of your question. Using it you ask "a question in an excited manner, express excitement or disbelief in the form of a question, or ask a rhetorical question."

But, always in that page, you can see it's a nonstandard symbol, so like it says, "in standard English, the same inflection is usually notated by ending a sentence with first a question mark and then an exclamation mark."

Now, it's also true that in an informal context, most people won't really care about it, but if you must choose a "line", it's that one.
Concerning formal writing, I'd suggest to avoid any of these and focus on the wording to convey the "exclamative" tone of the question.

share|improve this answer
Fantastic link, thank you. – AedonEtLIRA Sep 15 '11 at 14:51
@AedonEtLIRA You're welcome. :) – Alenanno Sep 15 '11 at 14:54
The Interrobang is available in a number of fonts. If you do not have one of those handy, there are two text variants in common use: '?!' for an exclamatory interrogative and '!?' for an interrogative exclamation. Pick the order to match the intended emotion. Except in the most formal communications your reader will readily understand these two usages. Examples can be found in published writing as mentioned in some of the references provided in the Interrobang Wikipedia article. – John Tobler Sep 16 '11 at 18:19
Fouthaus still maintains an interesting x-height article, The Interrobang is Back: An American punctation mark, that gives some history and indicating renewed current interest. – John Tobler Sep 16 '11 at 19:33

The question mark and exclamation point should not be used together as in your examples 1 and 2.

The simple solution here would be to use the exclamation point only, treating the sentence as an indirection question:

What are you doing?

Yet, there are other ways of indicating emphasis. Consider italicizing the key word (from your perspective):

What are you doing?

Or, you could employ additional text for clarification, e.g.:

"What are you doing?" she shouted at him.

share|improve this answer
I respectfully disagree. The question mark by itself simply does not express the full intent of the communication. That's exactly why the interrobang had to be invented by Martin K. Speckter in 1962. – John Tobler Sep 16 '11 at 18:25

The correct way is:

What are you doing?!

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.