Irony Mark

This post is about a treacherous piece of punctuation called the irony mark.  You might never have heard of this symbol, but it dates back to the 1580s.  It is written as a reversed question mark, and it is meant to indicate irony and/or sarcasm.

To introduce the irony mark, I’ve come up with a one-line manifesto for the product, the best sales pitch I can think of.  So, here is the #1 reason why you should place the irony mark at the end of your sentences:


If that leaves you cold, I offer another condensation of the philosophy behind the irony mark:


At this point, I’d like to make a few things explicit:

  1. You might notice that I seem to be conflating irony and sarcasm. Don’t mind me, I’m just being sarcastic.
  2. You might wonder whether the slogans above are meant to be sarcastic. Of course they are—they end with the irony mark!
  3. You might wonder whether I’m making fun of the idea of the irony mark. I’m NOT making fun of the irony mark.


Well, I am teasing the irony mark, a little. But I’m only doing it because I want the irony mark. I’d give anything for an effortless way of signaling to perfect strangers that I’m being ironic.  Bliss, to me, would be knowing that whenever I wrote something with a double, triple, or quadruple meaning, my reader would see all of those meanings and select the right one. Unfortunately, the joke’s on me. The irony mark has taken me for a ride.

Please look again at the image above.  Do you see an irony mark at the end of the sentence?  When I first published that image, I thought I’d gotten it wrong.  I stared at it once, and then a second time, and I swear the irony mark appeared to me as a normal question mark:





(italics mine)

I was mortified, because my joke about “not teasing” the irony mark would have fallen flat without a real irony mark at the end… to be teased.

I needed to stare at a proper question mark for several seconds before I could perceive the irony mark as an irony mark again.  Later, I experienced the same illusion: the irony mark flipped into a question mark!

And so I leave you with this warning message about the irony mark, showing where it’s gotten me—this is my brain on the irony mark:


Search phrases:

If it ain’t got the irony mark, it ain’t got the irony⸮ 

Sarcasm must be punctuated⸮

I’m not making fun of the irony mark⸮

Irony⸮  WTF‽

  1. sillykannan said:

    But I don’t have the irony mark on my machine. It shows like a block. I guess I can’t be ironic⸮

    • You might not be able to see your own use of (the) irony (mark), but I see it just fine⸮ Rest assured, you have expressed irony⸮ I’m now concerned about my own ability to communicate irony to you, because I fear the irony marks will be invisible to you when you read this reply⸮ Please install the irony mark so we can continue this dialogue⸮

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