After reviewing three common "answer" editing notations (see "Quest for the Answer Mark Part I: In the shadow of the Old Kinderhook
"), I could move on to punctuation proper and attempt to locate the answer mark.
Which was actually kind of easy, because one website
had posed the same question as my coworker. While I'm sure they're not the first to think of it, I hereby present their suggestion for the answermark:
It's a slick idea, but it's hard to imagine that the mark itself would have much utility, since most answers are clear from the context. I could see using it in extended written conversations (BBS, IM) where you want to say several things at once but don't want the answer to get lost in the noise, and in fact this is how the question of an answermark came up to begin with. However, there would be little call for it in reporting or (one would hope) academic writing.
(Plus, it might get confused with the incredibly-useful (!)
, a symbol used in American English to convey excitement, astonishment, or irony. Anywhere in the sentence! For example: "So after I'd finished talking to Stephen King (!), I went into the store." Apparently the British use it to denote sarcasm as well.)
Nevertheless, there's no disputing the elegance of [!], as the exclamation mark is the natural companion to the question mark. The sequence ?!
is common, and some people even combine the two characters to make the interrobang
And then there's one of my favorite punctuation stories, which I first read in the Guiness Book of World Records
The shortest correspondence in history took place in 1862.
Victor Hugo — famous for writing The Hunchback of Notre Dame — had gone on holiday following the publication of his great novel, Les Miserables. But Hugo could not restrain himself from asking how the book was doing. So he wrote the following letter to his publisher: "?"
His publisher was not to be outdone and replied fully in keeping with the truth: "!"