Monday, June 23rd, 2008

MM: Question


I’ve been racking my brain, trying to think of a punctuation mark we haven’t discussed yet. We’ve covered periods, commas, exclamation points, quotation marks, colons, semi-colons, and hyphens, not to mention parentheses, ellipses, and dashes. What else is there?

Then the light dawned. The answer was right there in front of me.

The question mark.

This one is pretty straight-forward, though. A question mark (?) is used in place of the period at the end of an interogatory sentence. In other words, at the end of a question.

Obviously, this is easy to remember, what with it being part of the name of the punction mark, after all. Some of the extra niceties:

  • It should only be used after a direct question (“Are you done reading that newspaper?”), not after indirect ones (“I asked him what time the movie started.”).
  • Rhetorical questions do merit a question mark. (“So, class, we can see that inventing the guillotine had a lot of unforeseen repercussions, didn’t it?”)
  • A polite request–since it’s not really a question–does not merit a question mark. (“Would you please step this way.”)
  • If your question ends with an abbreviation, finish the abbreviation–that is, you should use a period followed by a question mark. (“You think you’ll become a movie star just by moving to L.A.?”)
  • Generally speaking, though, you should not mix question marks with other punctuation. (“He said what!?” with both an exclamation point and a question mark is incorrect. Using multiple question marks is also frowned upon.)

3 Comments on “MM: Question”

  1. I was just listening to podcast Grammar Girl yesterday and there was an old episode about question marks. Seems like an easy punctuation mark, but eventually these questions creep up. I’m glad you’ve answered them here!

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Link Love Mad Libs Writing Exercise for Bloggers

  2. I think you can pretty much say that about every grammar rule that exists–they SEEM simple until you start really looking at them! (grin)

    –Deb’s last blog post..MM: Question

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