Keith Houston Author

Keith Houston is the author of Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, & Other Typographical Marks, a history of unusual marks of punctuation that The Spectator called "scholarly, highly readable and, on some deeper level, slightly deranged." He is a recovering software engineer and writes about punctuation and typography at

topic : The critical mass of the irony mark

Conveying irony or sarcasm in writing can be difficult. It always has been: the idea of a punctuation mark representing irony was first mooted four centuries ago, and it continues to rear its head even now. Ironically enough, the only mark to ever really stick - the winking smiley, or ;) - was itself created as a joke. We'll take a short tour of the irony mark's history and ask: why did it take so long to happen?