✍️ Ending a sentence with !? or ?! is not good English

At the moment, I’m watching a show on another streaming service and the subtitles are littered with the double punctuation marks of ?! and its variation !?.

Using ?! or !? shows that the writer of the subtitles does not understand the grammar of an ‘Exclamatory Question’.

An exclamatory question is one that is used for rhetorical effect. Although the words associated with a question are used — that is, how, what, where, why, etc. —, an answer to an exclamatory question is not required. In this case, a single exclamation mark is all that is needed.

If a question requires an answer, then a single question mark does the job.


I tend to do this, mostly when messaging familiar acquaintances, family, and friends.

It is definitely less cumbersome to stick with using one, and not both signs.

:white_check_mark: Lesson learned.

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When I’m messaging friends and family, I also use multiple !!! and ??? if I want to be overly dramatic :wink: I also do this because they cannot hear the tone of my voice. In subtitles, though, the tone of voice is present. I don’t recall ever having seen !? or ?! in works by Shakespeare, Dickens, Brontë, Austen, etc.


The interobang is acceptable for informal writing. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/interrobang-punctuation-mark-explained. Interrobang - Wikipedia
People who use the interobang are not lacking understanding of the function of either a question mark or an exclamation mark. I have used the interobang many times in subbing Korean dramas. Having voluntary resigned my tenure as an assistant professor at a state university and being licensed to practice law in three states of the United States until I retired in two states due to my age, I understand English grammar very well.
As a long time viki-an once wrote to me, writing subtitles is not writing a dissertation. The ?! punctuation is commonly used in Korean writing so we see it in the script. Since 2009 just as we use certain Korean words in romanticized form in the English subs for certain familial titles and food names to maintain the Korean flavor, we commonly use the two end marks together where appropriate for the scene. The combination of punctuation marks seems to express in writing the emphasis I would give certain statements speaking them aloud. I don’t consider subtitles “formal writing” where use of the interobang is not accepted. Formal writing would include dissertations, research papers, business letters, and the like. Subtitles are NOT formal writing.
George Bernard Shaw, the English author wrote, “I have already explained that 'though there is no such thing as perfectly correct English, there is presentable English, which we call good English. But in London 999 out of every thousand people not only speak bad English, but speak even that very badly.”


:blush: :saluting_face: :wink:
:rofl: Now we’ve got a debate on our hands.
:white_check_mark: Even more lessons learned

The Wiki article broadened my knowledge base, such an interesting read.

Wow cgwm808, thanks, you do not sit still :grin: in a very good way. Impressive! :blush:


That’s interessting
In my language both “?!” and “!?” are accepted and they mean slightly different things.
(it’s in Polish so you’d need to translate it with google)

I didn’t know that in English it’s different and if I was subbing, I would probably use ?! and !? as in my language. I think subbers who aren’t native English speakers might feel the same.


[Question Marks and Exclamation Marks in English ]

I’m glad you specified ‘Exclamations mark usage in the English Language.’
To err is to be human, and I have been guilty of that sin, when I used the SPANISH grammar usage when writing subtitles in English. Maybe the person was following the grammar rules in her/his native Language, and it doesn’t necessarily means: …‘‘that the writer of the subtitles does not understand the grammar of an ‘Exclamatory Question. Quote/Unquote’’

I’m also glad @zyxw added her/his article that explains
‘’ didn’t know that in English it’s different and if I was subbing, I would probably use ?! and !? as in my language.‘’ Quote/Unquote.

I’m glad you made all who reads your post here at Discussion read the information and become aware of the issue in question, and of course, from now on take the time to proofread their subtitles, and write it correctly when doing subtitles in the English Language. It’s not easy to catch it in time: when we usually write subtitles within a time frame; as we all know that’s how it works when writing subtitles.

Thank you for sharing this with us.


Your qualifications are most impressive. While I don’t have your expertise, I do have a good understanding of English grammar, albeit my understanding is mostly based on British English. In my bio, I list a few of the texts that I use for reference when subbing and editing.

I thank you for introducing me to the word “interobang”. Up until your mention of it, I don’t recall coming across this term. I double-checked my grammar books just to make sure that it hasn’t slipped past me, and it’s not mentioned in any of them.

By any chance, do you have any information on popular English authors who use !? or ?! or ‽ in their writings? I’m an avid reader and over the years, I’ve read many hundreds of English fiction novels by popular writers (Robin Cook, Alistair MacLean, Stephen King, Tad Williams, Agatha Christie, John Steinbeck, Isaac Asimov, Terry Goodkind, etc.) and I cannot recall any of these authors using this combination of punctuation marks. I’m genuinely just curious.

I thought that maybe the use of the combination of question/exclamation marks might be a British English versus American English puzzle. But then when I hovered my mouse pointer over “Richard Nordquist” in the first of the two articles I linked to in my original post, I discovered that he (the article’s author) has degrees from both English and Amercian universities.


Thank you for passing on your thoughts and the link to Wikipedia. I appreciate the insight you’ve given me. This has become quite an interesting discussion.


I must be starved for intellectual gratification! I’m taking in all of this thread’s links, with a spoon! :rofl:
This quote from your link, resonates well: :blush:

written English is more formal and complex than spoken English.


Here’s another interesting article on using standard vs non-standard English for subtitles. Should Non-Standard English be Used in Subtitles?.

@manganese Sorry, I am no longer the avid reader I once was, reading Dickens, Austen, Steinbeck, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, etc. and 800 page novels non-stop decades ago when I was 15. The only fiction I now read are usually by John Grisham (often legal stories) or Qui Xiaolong. Xiaolong is interesting in that like Joseph Conrad, he is a successful novelist in a non-native language. Xiaolong, I believe is a native speaker of Mandariin and is a professor of Chinese literature at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He writes his best-selling mystery novels in English. His protagonist is a police inspector well known in literary circles for his knowledge of Tang Dynasty poetry and his own poetry. Neither Grisham nor Xiaolong use the interrobang.


Thank you for the link :slight_smile:

I also like John Grisham’s novels. It’s been a while since I’ve read any of his books, though. I’ll have a look for Xialong novels as it’s a name that I haven’t come across before. I always like learning new things and seeing the world through the eyes of writers.


We have a “Dutch” author who emigrated from Romania to The Netherlands around the age of 32, Mira Feticu. Her first publications were in Romanian, but since 2012, she writes exclusively in Dutch.