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QUESTION MARK

?" redirects here. For the backwards or mirrored question mark used to indicate irony or
sarcasm, see percontation point. For other uses, see ? (disambiguation).

The question mark [ ? ] (also known as interrogation point, query, or eroteme in journalism)[1] is
a punctuation mark that indicates an interrogative clause or phrase in many languages. The question
mark is not used for indirect questions. The question mark glyph is also often used in place of
missing or unknown data. In Unicode, it is encoded at U+003F ? QUESTION MARK (HTML ? ).

The Uses of Question Marks


1. Use the question mark when posing a direct query in an interrogative sentence.
This denotes that the speaker is seeking information.

Are there any letters for me this morning?


When did you finish writing that report?

2. Use the question mark to turn a statement into a question. This denotes that the
speaker is assuming or hoping for a certain reply.

You promise to finish going through these invoices?


She didn't actually quit her job?

3. Use the question mark in statements ending with a word inflected as a query and with
question tags.

Just leave these papers on my desk, OK?


So you got a promotion, eh?
You didn't find those documents, did you? [Question tag]
You found those documents, didn't you? [Question tag]

4. Use the question mark after a direct question which is inserted into a statement. If the
question comes at the end, separate it with a comma. Capitalization of the question
after the comma is used for extreme emphasis but is rarely recommended.
Her boss wondered, Was she really doing her job the best she could?
[Question capitalized for extreme emphasis]

The question was, was she really doing the best she could?
[Question not capitalized recommended]

5. If the inserted question comes in the beginning, put the question mark in the middle
but do not capitalize the word following it.
Was she really doing her job the best she could? Her boss wondered.
Was she really doing the best she could? was the question.

6. When writing a series of questions, use a question mark for each item, even if items
are not complete sentences. Capitalization of the question items is optional so be
consistent with whatever option you choose.
The board members had to decide on a new course of action for the company. Expand?
Sell out? Consider new financial reforms?

Pay attention!

7. Do not use a question mark in statements that contain indirect questions (written as
declarative sentences).
No: Her boss wondered whether she was really doing her job the best she could?
Yes: Her boss wondered whether she was really doing her job the best she could.

No: I kept asking myself how she had done it.


Yes: I kept asking myself how she had done it.

Using question marks for indicating requests

1. Use a question mark with a mild command or polite request instead of a period that
would make the request more demanding.
Would you take these reports down to accounting?
[Polite request It would be nice if you do.]

Would you take these reports down to accounting.


[Directive order Take these reports]]

Would you pass me the salt, please. Vs. Would you please pass me the salt?
If you will follow me, please.

Using question marks for indicating rhetorical question

Check this out!


Aren't his paintings amazing? [Interested or surprised reaction]
Aren't his paintings amazing. [Uninterested or musing reaction]
Aren't his paintings amazing! [Indignant or exciting reaction]

Analysis! When the above rhetorical question is used with different punctuation marks,
the rhetoric implication is altered (as shown in the brackets). This demonstrates the
emotional effect punctuation marks may have in a text.

Using question marks for indicating uncertainty

1. Use a question mark enclosed in parenthesis (?) if a date or another number is


unknown or doubtful among the experts. Do not use a question mark to communicate
that you are unsure of the information you write, as this weakens the authority of your
writing. Joan of Arc, 1412 (?) 1431, is considered a French heroine.

2. To avoid using (?) for expressing uncertainty, consider using the word about.
Joan of Arc, born about 1412 1431, is considered a French heroine.

3. Do not use (?) to express irony or sarcasm in serious academic writing.


Most people find office filing a pleasant (?) assignment or Most people find office filing
as pleasant as having a bad case of the flu.

Question mark style conventions

1. Do not use a comma after a question mark occurring in the middle of a sentence.
"You didn't actually agree to that offer?" her boss asked incredulously.

2. Do not use a period after a question mark occurring in the end of a sentence, even if
followed by quotation marks.
Did you actually take that offer?

3. When a question mark follows a quoted text, put it before the closing quotation mark
if it applies just to the quoted text. Put the question mark outside the closing quotation
mark if it applies to the entire sentence.
Do you think it would be better in this case to stick to the attitude of "what's in it for me?
[Entire sentence in question]

I really do not like her attitude of "what's in it for me?"


[Only quoted text is in question, no extra period after a question mark]

4. When a question mark is used with parenthesis, put it inside the parenthesis if the
enclosed sentence stands alone. When the parenthesis enclose just part of a sentence,
put the question mark outside the parenthesis. Always add another terminal punctuation
mark to the end of the sentence.
For months, she stayed in extra hours to complete the project (Was she that eager to
get promoted?).
[Question mark inside the parenthesis, enclosed text is a stand alone sentence]

Did she really stay in extra hours to complete the project (despite being denied of a
promotion)?
[Question mark outside the parenthesis, enclosed text is part of a sentence]

5. When a question mark immediately follows an italicized text, italicize it as well.


You're kidding, he didn't promote her?

FUNCTIONS OF QUESTION MARK


The main function of a question mark is to indicate a question or query.

1. Use a question mark at the end of all direct questions:

What is your name?


How much money did you transfer?
Did you send euro or dollars?

2. Use a question mark after a tag question:

You're French, aren't you?


Snow isn't green, is it?
He should go and see a doctor, shouldn't he?

3. Don't forget to use a question mark at the end of a sentence that really is a
direct question:

How else would I get there, after all?


What if I said to you, "I don't love you any more"?
"Who knows when I'll die?", he asked rhetorically.

4. In very informal writing (personal letter or email), people sometimes use a


question mark to turn a statement into a question:

See you at 9pm?

In the same situation, they may use two or three question marks together to show
that they are not sure about something:

I think you said it would cost $10???

5. Do not use a question mark after an indirect or reported question:

The teacher asked them what their names were. (What are your names?)
John asked Mary if she loved him. (Do you love me?)
I'm wondering if she's coming. (Is she coming?)

6. Many polite requests or instructions are made in the form of a question. But
because they are not really questions, they do not take a question mark:

Could you please send me your catalogue.


Would all first-class and business-class passengers now start boarding.

7. Be careful with titles and abbreviations when question marks are involved:

"Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?" was a play before it was a film.


Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf? was a play before it was a film.
Have you seen the film "Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?"?
Have you seen the film Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf??
Have you ever been to L.A.?

Note that there should be no space immediately before a question mark.