Use a question mark [ ? ] at the end of a direct question. It is considered bad form to use a question mark in combination with other marks, although that is often done in informal prose in an attempt to convey complex tones: He told you what!? That combination (or similar combination) of punctuation marks is sometimes called an interrobang, but the interrobang currently has no role in academic prose.*
A tag question is a device used to turn a statement into a question. It nearly always consists of a pronoun, a helping verb, and sometimes the word not. Although it begins as a statement, the tag question prevails when it comes to the end-mark: use a question mark. Notice that when the statement is positive, the tag question is expressed in the negative; when the statement is negative, the tag question is positive. (There are a few exceptions to this, frequently expressing an element of surprise or sarcasm: “So you’ve made your first million, have you?” “Oh, that’s your plan, is it?”)
The following are more typical tag questions:He should quit smoking, shouldn’t he?
He shouldn’t have quit his diet, should he?
They’re not doing very well, are they?
He finished on time, didn’t he?
She does a beautiful job, doesn’t she?
Harold may come along, mightn’t he?
There were too many people on the dock, weren’t there?
(Be careful of this last one; it’s not “weren’t they?”)
Be careful not to put a question mark at the end of an indirect question.
The instructor asked the students what they were doing.
I asked my sister if she had a date.
I wonder if Cheney will run for vice president again.
I wonder whether Cheney will run again.
Be careful to distinguish between an indirect question (above), and a question that is embedded within a statement which we do want to end with a question mark.
We can get to Boston quicker, can’t we, if we take the interstate?
His question was, can we end this statement with a question mark?
She ended her remarks with a resounding why not?
I wonder: will Cheney run for office again?
Put a question mark at the end of a sentence that is, in fact, a direct question. (Sometimes writers will simply forget.) Rhetorical questions (asked when an answer is not really expected), by the way, are questions and deserve to end with a question mark:
How else should we end them, after all?
What if I said to you, “You’ve got a real problem here”? (Notice that the question mark here comes after the quotation mark and there is no period at the end of the statement.)
Sometimes a question will actually end with a series of brief questions. When that happens, especially when the brief questions are more or less follow-up questions to the main question, each of the little questions can begin with a lowercase letter and end with a question mark.
Who is responsible for executing the plan? the coach? the coaching staff? the players?
If a question mark is part of an italicized or underlined title, make sure that the question mark is also italicized:
My favorite book is Where Did He Go?
(Do not add a period after such a sentence that ends with the title’s question mark. The question mark will also suffice to end the sentence.) If the question mark is not part of a sentence-ending title, don’t italicize the question mark:
Did he sing the French national anthem, la Marseillaise?
When a question ends with an abbreviation, end the abbreviation with a period and then add the question mark.
Would everyone in the room who hasn’t received an ID card please move to the front of the line.
Didn’t he use to live in Washington, D.C.?
When a question constitutes a polite request, it is usually not followed by a question mark. This becomes more true as the request becomes longer and more complex:
The following rules and examples will help you know when and where to use the semicolon as a punctuation mark.
- Use a semicolon to combine two very closely related complete sentences.
|Toni Morrison uses parabolic storytelling in her writing; she seldom writes in a linear mode. Many people believe the state quarters released from the United States Mint will be valuable someday; although this is possible, the coins may also turn out to be worth no more than their actual value of 25 cents.
- Use a semicolon along with a conjunctive adverb and a comma to clarify the relationship between two closely related complete sentences. Conjunctive adverbs include however, therefore, in addition, moreover, subsequently, consequently, instead, and additionally.
|The Leaning Tower of Pisa is in danger of falling over; however, engineers are trying to stabilize its foundation. The Five Nations respects the abilities of all its people; therefore, both women and men participate in making tribal decisions.
- Use a semicolon to separate a series of phrases or clauses that are long or have punctuation, like commas, within them.
|In Walden, Henry David Thoreau encourages individuals to find their own way of life rather than conforming to the ideas of others; to seek the truth and beauty of life in nature; and to learn about themselves and the world by experiencing life instead of just studying it. The University’s community outreach committee was led by three individuals: Erica Hunt, a full-time student; Dave Woods, a Center for Information Media administrator; and Joyce Wilkins, a business professor.
The following rules and examples will help you know when and where to use the colon as a punctuation mark.