When a direct question occurs within a larger sentence, it takes a question mark. Note that in the examples below, the question mark supplants the comma that would syntactically belong in its place. The key question, Can the two sides reach a compromise? In contrast with the examples above, when the question mark is part of a title of work, a syntactically necessary comma is retained. When the question mark in the title comes at the end of a sentence that would itself require a question mark or period, the additional question mark or period is omitted. Requests that are phrased as questions should end with a period. These are really requests or commands, and not true questions. The question mark can be used to indicate editorial uncertainty, either in parentheses or in brackets. Some authorities include a space between the uncertain word and the opening parenthesis; others omit the space as shown in the example below. Use of the question mark with other punctuation, including quotation marks, is explained in the section on terminal punctuation.
Use a question mark [? 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? 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. Put a question mark at the end of a sentence that is, in fact, a direct question.
Example: Will you go with me? Rule 3a. Avoid the common trap of using question marks with indirect questions , which are statements that contain questions. Use a period after an indirect question. Incorrect: I wonder if he would go with me? Correct: I wonder if he would go with me. OR I wonder: Would he go with me? Rule 3b. Some sentences are statements—or demands—in the form of a question.
They are called rhetorical questions because they don't require or expect an answer. Many should be written without question marks. Examples: Why don't you take a break. Would you kids knock it off. What wouldn't I do for you! Rule 4. Use a question mark when a sentence is half statement and half question. Rule 5a. The placement of question marks with quotation marks follows logic. If a question is within the quoted material, a question mark should be placed inside the quotation marks. Examples: She asked, "Will you still be my friend?