Punctuation Quiz #3: Question Marks
All but one of the following sentences demonstrate incorrect style for question marks according to The Chicago Manual of Style; revise the sentence as necessary:
1. Am I to blame? he asked himself.
2. “Were you in the war?,” I asked.
3. I wondered whether she would ever speak to me again?
4. Would you please hand me that report?
5. Why, when she’s already upset, would you say, “I told you so?”
A question mark indicates an interrogative, or direct question. It may also be used to signal disbelief, surprise, or uncertainty in a declarative or imperative sentence.
Original: Am I to blame? he asked himself.
Correct : Am I to blame? he asked himself.
A question mark may appear in the midst of a sentence if a direct question is part of that sentence. This sentence is correct.
Original: “Were you in the war?,” I asked.
Correct : “Were you in the war?” I asked.
When a question mark appears at the end of a quotation or a line of dialogue, it supplants the comma that would normally be located there. (An exception is made for the previous rule when what is quoted is a title of a work, as in “His short story ‘Who Will Watch the Watchers?,’ his first published piece, appeared in an anthology.”)
Original: I wondered whether she would ever speak to me again?
Correct : I wondered whether she would ever speak to me again.
No question mark is used in an indirect quotation. (The same rule applies when a question within a sentence consists of a single word that often begins a stated question, such as in “I knew it would happen, but I asked myself when.”)
Original: Would you please hand me that report?
Correct : Would you please hand me that report.
A request that could be truncated into an imperative does not require a question mark.
Original: Why, when she’s already upset, would you say, “I told you so?”
Correct : Why, when she’s already upset, would you say, “I told you so”?
A question mark appears after a close quotation mark, not before it, if it applies to the framing sentence rather than the quoted material.
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