Positioning of inverted exclamation mark

nina's picture

¡Hola!
I'm sorry, I'm sure this has been asked a trillion times at least! But I haven't found anything. :-/

So what's the word from people who read Spanish on the vertical position of the inverted exclamation (and question) mark? I've read it can be aligned with the "normal" marks i.e. at cap height, or it can descend & only reach the x-line on top. Because I still haven't studied any Spanish (been meaning to for years), I have no idea which option is more common, or preferred. Opinions?

cuttlefish's picture

I'll have to ask my sister on this (she's a Spanish teacher). I have seen fonts with the inverted exclamation and question marks in either and occasionally both cap-height and x-height positions. It makes sense for them to be at the cap height, since they are placed at the beginning of a question or exclamation which is usually a complete sentence which begins with a capital letter. However, I understand how a descending punctuation mark in those places would be desirable as it would be more easily differentiated.

I'll get back to you on this.

Jos Buivenga's picture

Why not do both and include the caps aligned one in a case feature?

nina's picture

Thanks a lot guys.

Cuttlefish: Those were pretty much my thoughts too, how one solution seems more "logical", but the other one less confusing. Thanks for investigating, that's very cool!

Jos: Great idea. Although putting it in the case feature would probably presuppose that the descending form is fine as a choice for mixed-case? But I guess I could put the "lining" ones in a salt feature as well, so users can easily select them to use with mixed-case text too, if they prefer. I might just do that.

kentlew's picture

Nina -- We had a lengthy discussion about this many years back, only it was focused primarily on the questiondown mark. I've had no luck locating the thread, but maybe someone like Florian can find it.

kentlew's picture

Oh wait . . . Found it. Almost two years ago:
Proper placement of exclamdown and questiondown

nina's picture

Great! I suspected there must be stuff buried in the archives. Thank you, Kent.

cuttlefish's picture

This is actually an issue in some of my fonts: due to the very large x-height, the difference between a cap-height and descended inverted mark is very minimal, or else I'm not dropping them far enough. My instinct is to drop them so the end of the stroke rises to the x-height with the dot above. Perhaps I need to bring the whole thing down further? When I bring the dot down to x-height, the stroke drops farther than descenders.

cuttlefish's picture

Should a descending questiondown have a modified hook to allow closer spacing/avoid interference with following letters?

guifa's picture

A question in Spanish will not necessarily begin with a capital letter, as the question marks enclose only the interrogative clause, compare:

I was going to ask, um, you know, what's his name, where that restaurant is at.
Iba a preguntar a, eh, sabes, ¿cómo se llamaba?, dónde estaba ese restaurante.

In an all caps situation, it's best to put ¡¿?! at the same height (and baseline) as the capital letters. Otherwise, let the ¡¿ drop, but it's not mandatory.

And Jason, take a look at how it is simply reversed and drop to your descender height. The two really should be the same height. Interference can be expected from the y and the j on a regular basis. Just buffer with enough space. If you change it only moderately it won't be a big deal but it if looks like a different glyph entirely or — worse — if it looks smaller than the upright version, you'll have a problem.

The case solution is what I'm using and I think is optimal.

«El futuro es una línea tan fina que apenas nos damos cuenta de pintarla nosotros mismos». (La Luz Oscura, por Javier Guerrero)

Nick Shinn's picture

I've been including baseline-sitting inverted marks as a "case" feature in my fonts for a couple of years, with the default as "lowered".

charles ellertson's picture

Nick & all,

Most typesetters I know don't routinely use the Case feature. Additionally, you flat don't use it for a word with just the initial letter capped.

I think it is in the old thread, but I always make up a baseline inverted question/exclam mark, then one at x-height, and swap that in with contextual alternates (calt) for lower case letters.

All this started at the request of the University Of Texas press. They set a number of books that include significant Spanish, and their editors felt that an x-height inverted question/exclam followed by a capital was wrong.

BTW, the characters can be subtly different. I usually like the dot to center around the height of the serif on a capital B, D, etc. I usually leave the bowl alone, & increase the stem. For the lower case, some adjustment might be needed depending on your descenders, esp. check the "j".

Nick Shinn's picture

Most typesetters I know don’t routinely use the Case feature.

I assume most graphic designers would be familiar with the "All Caps" setting, if not the keyboard short cut.
The idea is to make the effect readily available; the alternative, a Stylistic Set, would be less so.

I always make up a baseline inverted question/exclam mark, then one at x-height, and swap that in with contextual alternates (calt) for lower case letters.

Very clever, but not a good idea for retail fonts, as there are too many applications which don't support Contextual Alternates.

guifa's picture

Charles, that's odd. I've never heard of anyone finding the lowered ¿ looking odd in front of a capital letter that was then followed by lowercase. Maybe that's just English speakers over thinking it? I guess if they also change the spacing of French punctuation in quoted text it's not a big deal, just a bit odd.

«El futuro es una línea tan fina que apenas nos damos cuenta de pintarla nosotros mismos». (La Luz Oscura, por Javier Guerrero)

Chiba Chiba's picture

I've been talking to a lot o people in Uruguay and Argentina about this. And what most people say – generally young– is that this is slowly disappearing from the language. I wouldn't be surprised if this officially changed at the next ortographical review.

What do people from México, Spain, Chile or any Central America country have to say about it?
Anyone?

guifa's picture

I can't speak for Latin America, but in Spain the ! is often replaced by the ¡ on chat, since ! is shift-1, but ¡ has its own key: hola¡¡¡¡¡¡ en vez de ¡Hola!

In chat and SMS the inverted mark can be left out because lines tend to be shorter with few embedded clauses. That said, the use of accents and fully typing out words is also not common, same for capital letters. But that's the same for any message of those types in any language.

If something is even minimally formal, or if it's handwritten, all marks and punctuation will be there. Even those radical Catalonians and Basque (who do not use them in their language) will use them when they write in Castilian.

«El futuro es una línea tan fina que apenas nos damos cuenta de pintarla nosotros mismos». (La Luz Oscura, por Javier Guerrero)

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

And what most people say – generally young– is that this is slowly disappearing from the language.

Especially online. People opt for using shortcuts when chatting online or typing up an e-mail, and if they don't remember the shortcut for putting an accent or dieresis on a vowel, or making the upside down interrogation mark, they just don't do it. Even with the ñ, I've seen people write "banio" instead of "baño", so that at least you have a hint of how it should be pronounced (or what the writer meant to type).

It's not too different from English speakers typing "lol" or "c u soon" rather than spelling things out.

But I don't think the use of these opening marks (¡, ¿) has disappeared from print, at least not in Argentina -- newspapers, magazines, and books are still using them.

AGL's picture

The interesting thing about it is ¡you know ahead of the exclamation! ¿right?

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Well, as someone noted in the older thread that Kent linked to (above), in Spanish you really need advance notice, because of sentence structure. It's not really necessary in English.

guifa's picture

The trick of course is when you use both, since you open with one and close with the other. You'll know it's exclamatory but not that it's interrogative, or vice versa, until you get to the end of the exclamatory interrogative part of the sentence. Thankfully it's a rather rare occurrence.

«El futuro es una línea tan fina que apenas nos damos cuenta de pintarla nosotros mismos». (La Luz Oscura, por Javier Guerrero)

kentlew's picture

Matthew -- Sounds like Spanish could use an "interrobangdown" character ;-)

faraqat's picture

"in Spanish you really need advance notice, because of sentence structure. It’s not really necessary in English."

Ricardo, portuguese have a somewhat similar sentence structure to spanish; we can have very, very long exclamatory or interrogative sentences, for example, but we never use ¡¿. I guess we have some hard time with this, we have to pay a lot of attention to the meaning of the hole text... it would be nice to have ¡¿, but we've made well without them :P

AGL's picture

An example:

Niño, voltea ¡voltea!
(Niño voltea, voltea)

Translation:

Flip kid, flip!
(Kid flip, kid flip)

As you can see, the exclamation mark in " ¡voltea! exult the last command, "voltea".

Exclamaciones según la wiki:
http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/!

Voltea niño, ¡ahora!

"Vease desambiguación"
http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/!_(desambiguación)

**

*The links may not work, copy and paste the address on your browser. It works that way. Who knows whah?

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Thanks for the info on Portuguese, faraqat!

For those of you who can read it, the Spanish Wikipedia has this article on the use of question marks.

I don't know how reliable the information is, but the article states that the opening exclamation and interrogation marks were codified by the Real Academia Española in 1754. The article goes on, saying that in reality, Spanish doesn't really need these opening marks, unless the sentence is very long. Hmm. The article claims that the Spanish monarchy gave the Real Academia its power and influence. It also mentions the declining use of the opening marks, and mentions the use of ¿¡ and !? together, as a substitute for the interrobang.

guifa's picture

That Spanish article doesn't seem too trusting. In fact, its tone is very much anti-beginning mark. Also, it says that the opening marks are used in Catalonian which. I asked a friend in Barcelona about it and he said that he has never in his life, neither in newspapers or books, ever seen the opening mark used. His roommate said that while they might technically be allowed for in extremely long questions (if only because the final-only is simply "advised" and not mandated per se), in practice they are never used:

D’acord amb aquesta pràctica, i tenint en compte que l’absència d’una normativa clara condueix a una situació confusionària, la Secció Filològica aconsella, amb finalitat simplificadora, d’usar els signes d’interrogació i d’admiració exclusivament al final de l’oració.

On the other hand, it doesn't note that languages like Galician/Galego and Asturian/Bable do use them (even the). From the Academia de la Llingua Asturiana:

1.9.6. LOS SIGNOS D’INTERROGACIÓN O D’ENTRUGA: Empléguense al principiu y a la fin d’una interrogación o entruga direuta: ¿Qué faes?
1.9.7. LOS SIGNOS D’ESCLAMACIÓN: Empléguense al principiu y a la fin d’una esclamación: ¡Qué fríu fai!

And from the Real Academia Gallega:

A entoación interrogativa ou exclamativa márcase ao final do enunciado por medio dos signos ? e !, respectivamente: Por que non llelo preguntas ti?; Miraches ben?; Vaia, Tomé, por que non calas?; Vaiche boa!; Mira que non o fagas! Para facilitar a lectura e evitar ambigüidades poderase indicar o inicio destas entoacións cos signos ¿ e ¡, respectivamente.

But the impression I get is that they do tend to use them.

Actually on rereading that Wikipedia article, someone really had some mala leche when they wrote it!

«El futuro es una línea tan fina que apenas nos damos cuenta de pintarla nosotros mismos». (La Luz Oscura, por Javier Guerrero)

guifa's picture

That Spanish article doesn't seem too trusting. In fact, its tone is very much anti-beginning mark. Also, it says that the opening marks are used in Catalonian which. I asked a friend in Barcelona about it and he said that he has never in his life, neither in newspapers or books, ever seen the opening mark used. His roommate said that while they might technically be allowed for in extremely long questions (if only because the final-only is simply "advised" and not mandated per se), in practice they are never used:

D’acord amb aquesta pràctica, i tenint en compte que l’absència d’una normativa clara condueix a una situació confusionària, la Secció Filològica aconsella, amb finalitat simplificadora, d’usar els signes d’interrogació i d’admiració exclusivament al final de l’oració.

On the other hand, it doesn't note that languages like Galician/Galego and Asturian/Bable do use them (even the). From the Academia de la Llingua Asturiana:

1.9.6. LOS SIGNOS D’INTERROGACIÓN O D’ENTRUGA: Empléguense al principiu y a la fin d’una interrogación o entruga direuta: ¿Qué faes?
1.9.7. LOS SIGNOS D’ESCLAMACIÓN: Empléguense al principiu y a la fin d’una esclamación: ¡Qué fríu fai!

And from the Real Academia Gallega:

A entoación interrogativa ou exclamativa márcase ao final do enunciado por medio dos signos ? e !, respectivamente: Por que non llelo preguntas ti?; Miraches ben?; Vaia, Tomé, por que non calas?; Vaiche boa!; Mira que non o fagas! Para facilitar a lectura e evitar ambigüidades poderase indicar o inicio destas entoacións cos signos ¿ e ¡, respectivamente.

But the impression I get is that they do tend to use them.

Actually on rereading that Wikipedia article, someone really had some mala leche when they wrote it!

«El futuro es una línea tan fina que apenas nos damos cuenta de pintarla nosotros mismos». (La Luz Oscura, por Javier Guerrero)

guifa's picture

That Spanish article doesn't seem too trusting. In fact, its tone is very much anti-beginning mark. Also, it says that the opening marks are used in Catalonian which. I asked a friend in Barcelona about it and he said that he has never in his life, neither in newspapers or books, ever seen the opening mark used. His roommate said that while they might technically be allowed for in extremely long questions (if only because the final-only is simply "advised" and not mandated per se), in practice they are never used:

D’acord amb aquesta pràctica, i tenint en compte que l’absència d’una normativa clara condueix a una situació confusionària, la Secció Filològica aconsella, amb finalitat simplificadora, d’usar els signes d’interrogació i d’admiració exclusivament al final de l’oració.

On the other hand, it doesn't note that languages like Galician/Galego and Asturian/Bable do use them (even the). From the Academia de la Llingua Asturiana:

1.9.6. LOS SIGNOS D’INTERROGACIÓN O D’ENTRUGA: Empléguense al principiu y a la fin d’una interrogación o entruga direuta: ¿Qué faes?
1.9.7. LOS SIGNOS D’ESCLAMACIÓN: Empléguense al principiu y a la fin d’una esclamación: ¡Qué fríu fai!

And from the Real Academia Gallega:

A entoación interrogativa ou exclamativa márcase ao final do enunciado por medio dos signos ? e !, respectivamente: Por que non llelo preguntas ti?; Miraches ben?; Vaia, Tomé, por que non calas?; Vaiche boa!; Mira que non o fagas! Para facilitar a lectura e evitar ambigüidades poderase indicar o inicio destas entoacións cos signos ¿ e ¡, respectivamente.

But the impression I get is that they do tend to use them.

Actually on rereading that Wikipedia article, someone really had some mala leche when they wrote it!

«El futuro es una línea tan fina que apenas nos damos cuenta de pintarla nosotros mismos». (La Luz Oscura, por Javier Guerrero)

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Thanks for the insight, guifa. Mala leche indeed. My doubts about the article -- just a hunch, really -- were well-founded, then.

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