writingtipsNot every question requires a question mark. Trust me.

How often don’t you ask a rhetorical question. One that you really don’t expect an answer to. (Like the first sentence in this paragraph.)

So when does a question need a question mark?

When you expect an answer.

Direct questions—the kind journalists ask to get a story—demand an answer. We call them the 5 (or 6) W’s: who, what, when, where, why and how.

What happened? Who was involved? When did it happen? Where? Why? How?

Direct questions almost always begin with some variation of the 5 W’s. If one of them isn’t the first word in the sentence, it’s probably in there some place, like: “Well, just what are you doing in there?” or “Just who do you think you are?”

Sentences that begin with a being verb like are, is, were and the like also indicate a direction question.

Are you alone?

Do you love me?

Is this the best you can do?

All these questions demand an answer and a question mark.

Sometimes we pose indirect questions—questions that we really don’t expect an answer to.

They may be questions you’re posing to yourself:

Now, why did I come in here? (Then again, you may be looking for that answer.)

They may be relating something in the past tense:

I asked her what the problem was.

They may be rhetorical questions:

What’s up with that.

No one really expects an answer to a question like that. And neither do these indirect questions require question marks.

Got it?


2 thoughts on “When a Question isn’t Really a Question

  • April 24, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Your postings are so practical and I always glean something helpful from them. Thank you. Where can I buy the book with all these gems for writing perfection? (I expect an answer.)  🙂

    • June 5, 2014 at 12:54 am

      Hmmm, hadn’t given any thought to a book. Thanks for the idea.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *