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Punctuation: Question Marks

Question Mark Basics

Question marks are punctuation marks used to end interrogative sentences, or questions.  The placement of the question mark depends on the structure of the sentence.

Question Mark Placement

  1. In titles. If a title includes a question mark, the question mark should always be included.
    Example: "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" is one of my favorite songs.
  2. In quotations. There are several ways to determine the placement of a question mark when a direct quotation is involved.
    Example: When it comes to driving a car, "how old is too old" (Wenser & Brent, 2003, p. 12)?
    Note that in this instance, the question mark comes after the parenthetical because it applies to the entire sentence.
    Example: Some questioned the validity of Wenser and Brent's (2003) question, "How old is too old?" (p. 12).
    Note that in this instance, the question mark comes inside the quotation (before the parenthetical) because the question mark only applies to the quotation, not the entire sentence.
  3. In lists of questions. The Writing Center recommends serializing a list of questions.
    Example: Three questions on Duncan's (1993) survey were
    1. "When did you stop smoking?" (p. 1).
    2. "When did you smoke your first cigarette?" (p. 1).
    3. "How long have you been smoke free?" (p. 2).
  4. In a paraphrase. When paraphrasing another author's question, use a question mark when applicable.
    Example: Stetson (1961) wondered, could a man really walk on the moon?

Misuse of Question Marks

Note that you do not use a question mark if you paraphrase the question indirectly.

Example: Stetson (1961) wondered whether a man could really walk on the moon.