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Write the Right Word: What’s the Question, Anyway?

Even though part of a sentence may be a question, it should not end with a question mark.

For example: I wonder what’s in the water that’s turning it blue. That’s a declarative sentence that basically says I would like to know the cause of the coloring in the water. I’m not asking a question.

You would use a question mark if the entire sentence is a question: What’s in the water that’s turning it blue? You also would use a question mark after the question part of the sentence if it is a quote. For example: I heard him ask, “What’s in the water that’s turning it blue?”

Note that the question mark goes inside the quotation mark because it refers to the question. Question marks go outside of quotes when the entire sentence is the question. For example: Who wrote “Gone With the Wind”?

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