What is a backward question mark?
A backward – or mirrored or reverse – question mark is simply a mirror image of the English question mark. It is used in Arabic and languages that use Arabic script, such as Persian and Urdu. In these languages, script is written on a page from right to left (as opposed to from left to right in English) and so the question mark is mirrored to fall in line with that style.
Hebrew and Yiddish are also written from right to left, however they use a question mark that appears on the page in the same orientation as English.
The backward question mark was also briefly used in English to end a rhetorical question. It was originally proposed by Henry Denham in 1580, but went out of general usage in the early 1600s. If it had caught on, we could be using it like this:
- Are you stupid؟
- Did you hear me؟
Examples of the backward question mark in Arabic
- أين هو ملعب لكرة القدم؟ (Where is the football stadium?)
- ما هو علامة استفهام المتخلفة؟ (What is a backward question mark?)
How do you make a backward question mark?
For PC users in Word, you’ll need to be using an Arabic-based font such as Arabic Typesetting. Click on Insert, then choose Symbol.
For Mac users, it’s a little trickier. Open up the Characters box (command+option+T), search for character 061F, then insert or copy and paste.