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Write the Right Word: Question Marks Not Always Necessary

Just because you use the word “ask” in a sentence doesn’t mean the sentence should end with a question mark.

For example, you don’t need a question mark at the end of this sentence: Ask your friend who went to the movie with him. You shouldn’t use a question mark because you aren’t asking the question; you are requesting that someone else ask the question.

However, if you include a direct question as part of a sentence, then the question would end with a question mark. For example: I asked her, “Are you going to the movie tonight?” Or this: “Where are you going?” she asked.

Note that the question mark is inside the quotation marks. That’s because the question mark only applies to the question being asked, not the entire sentence.

The question mark goes outside of quotation marks when it applies to the whole sentence. For example: Who wrote “Gone With the Wind”?

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

Filed under: Written Communication
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