Monday, January 18, 2010

Editorial Tip of the Week: ???

I have a question. What is a question? A request for information, a request for affirmation, a request for courtesy. Does it always require a question mark? Well that depends on the question. Should be simple, right? There may be more to it than you originally thought.

Question marks are used for a few purposes according to Chicago: "to mark a direct question, to indicate an editorial doubt, or (occasionally) to express surprise or disbelief." A question mark always comes within a sentence at the end of the direct question, though this does not mean it will always come at the end of the sentence. For example: Is it worth the risk? he wondered. If the question does not begin the sentence, then the question should not begin with a capital letter: The question, how can the two be reconciled? was on everyone's mind.

A lot of questions are indirect and these never require a question mark. He wondered whether it was worth the risk. Though this example does imply a request for information or affirmation, it is asked indirectly. Some indirect questions within a sentence consist only of one word, such as who, when, how, or why. In these cases, there is no need for a question mark, but sometimes the word is italicized. An example: she asked herself why.

Ever heard of a courtesy laugh? Well, there are courtesy questions too, although they function a little differently. They are requests politely disguised as a question and do not require a question mark. Will the audience please rise is a courtesy question. So on that note: Would you kindly agree to these terms for using the question mark.

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