A question mark ? seems to be composed of two distinct pieces, top and bottom. Do these pieces have their own names, and if so, what are they?


3 Answers 3


If you're willing to go entirely by hearsay, a question mark has a curl, a lobe and a ball.

To quote:

Just as Kinky Friedman anthropomorphizes this B, giving it human characteristics, namely ribs, type designers have come up with some very human terms to describe the details of the letterforms that they create. They speak the arm (of, say, an E), the crotch (of an M), which could further be described as an acute crotch or an obtuse crotch, the ear (of some g’s), which might be a flat ear or a floppy ear, the eye (of an e), the leg (of a k), the shoulder (of an n), the tail (of a j or a Q), and the spine (of an S). There is a sketch by the great type designer Ed Benguiat that labels the curl, the lobe and the ball of a single question mark.

It's hearsay because I couldn't find a picture of Ed Benguiat's sketch, but if the linked blog is quoting reliably, then I would say this is a fair answer since Ed Benguiat is unquestionably an important expert in typeface design.

  • 2
    Nice. I think your answer could be improved with a blockquote from your interesting link. Sep 28, 2011 at 11:54
  • 1
    Thank you @Callithumpian. That is an excellent suggestion. I have edited my answer accordingly.
    – Joel Brown
    Sep 28, 2011 at 16:51
  • "Kinky Friedman". Best freaking name ever. XD Aug 2, 2015 at 21:59
  • The ball is obvious, but which part is the curl and which the lobe? May 25, 2017 at 14:53
  • @iamnotmaynard I looked everywhere (i.e. Google) for the sketch mentioned in the quote, but couldn't find it. I'm guessing, but I would say the curl is the top of the main part of the question mark and the lobe is the bottom of the main part. In serif fonts particularly the bottom of the main part curls around like an ear lobe.
    – Joel Brown
    May 26, 2017 at 11:41

I couldn't find any common typographical terminology for the top part so you could call the top bit:

  • top part,
  • squiggle,
  • curl,
  • curve,
  • stroke.

You could call the bottom bit:

  • bottom part,
  • dot,
  • jot,
  • tittle,
  • period,
  • full stop.

A tittle is a small distinguishing mark, such as diacritic or the dot in the letter i and j, so I propose the terms squiggle and tittle.


In The elements of typographic style by Robert Bringhurst, they are referred to as a hook / crook and a dot.

  • 1
    Hook, crook and a dot is preferable to "obtuse crotch", but that's merely my personal preference ;o) Jun 24, 2012 at 11:06

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