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?

  • 1
    Interesting question. You don't see "!?" in formal writing, but I think it's valuable. – Jeremy Sep 15 '11 at 14:40

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.

| improve this answer | |
  • 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.

| 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

There is an old English punctuation mark that combines the two. It's a question mark dissected by an exclamation point, you've probably seen them in comics and graphic novels. This may already have been covered but I didn't bother reading any other comments.

| improve this answer | |

The correct way is:

What are you doing?!

| improve this answer | |

It is better to leave it as a simple question because it sounds and looks informal with an exclamation point; it is incorrect punctuation, too.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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