Colon before or after the question mark

Discussion in 'English Only' started by rich7, Jan 9, 2009.

  1. rich7 Senior Member

    caracas
    Venezuela español
    Where should I place the colon in this kind of questions?

    what are the the differences among the following sentences?:

    what are the the differences among the following sentences:?
     
  2. xqby

    xqby Senior Member

    Santa Maria, CA
    English (U.S.)
    I wouldn't use a colon if I already had a question mark.
     
  3. rich7 Senior Member

    caracas
    Venezuela español
    It makes sense, thanks.
     
  4. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    1. Drop the colon, by all means. If you want to use the comma, you need to pose the statements differently, i.e. "Describe the differences between the following statement."
    2. Note that we normally say "differences between" such as "what is the difference between butter, cheese and clotted cream?"
    3. You need to say either "These kinds of questions" or "This kind of question." Since the sentences are identical, only one kind is involved.
    4. Note that forum rules require proper capitalization, including the first letter of sentences.

    Good luck.
     
  5. Icetrance Senior Member

    US English
    I'm confused about the same thing. Consider what I have below.

    May I then conclude?: Be careful what you wish for as you might just get it.

    Is that possible?

    Thanks a lot in advance.:)
     
  6. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 73)
    UK English
    I have never seen a colon combined with a question mark!
     
  7. dn88 Senior Member

    pl
    I think there are two possible ways:

    May I then conclude? Be careful what you wish for as you might just get it.
    - here you're asking for "permission to conclude" and then you just go on and say whatever you wanted to say.

    or


    May I then conclude: "Be careful what you wish for as you might just get it."?
    - you are asking whether the whole statement can be considered correct.

    That's how I see it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2010
  8. Omanaite

    Omanaite Junior Member

    Buenos Aires, Argentina
    Spanish - Argentina
    Exactly, remove the colon or re-write the sentence so that the colon can be used (which of course means, you'll need to get rid of the question mark)
     
  9. Icetrance Senior Member

    US English
    The more I think about it, the more I realize how strange a colon next to a question mark looks.

    Perhaps, we just don't need the question mark at all, even thought it's a question.

    Another attempt at correctly punctuating the sentence:

    May I conclude: Be careful what you wish for, as you might just get it.
     
  10. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    Try: May I conclude with: "Be careful what you wish for, as you might just get it?"

    Yes, I know it looks a bit strange, but that's the way it would be written in U.S. newspaper style.
     
  11. Icetrance Senior Member

    US English
    Thank you - very interesting! I think you solved the puzzle for me.

    I seriously had no clue, and I'm a linguist. :eek:
     
  12. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    If you are politely signaling the conclusion of your presentation, I think I would avoid the "May I" entirely.

    Let me conclude with this (thought): be careful what you wish for, as you just might get it.

    Or, if you were asking if it was a reasonable conclusion based on the information or evidence:

    May I conclude that you must be careful what you wish for, as you just might get it?
     
  13. Icetrance Senior Member

    US English
    Thank you very much!

    I'm thinking I've seen this written, though, without a question mark in a newspaper. I could be wrong, though.

    May I conclude: Be careful what you wish for, as you just might get it.

    (not question mark at all)
     
  14. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I find it a little pretentious to form a statement with a construction that is actually a question. That may be personal preference.
     
  15. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I don't question what you say, but the example illustrates very well the difference between AE-style punctuation and what Larry Trask calls "logical punctuation".
    The text inside quotation marks is quite obviously not a question, yet the style requires it to be presented as a question.
    Bizarre, unless you are used to it, in which case it's normal :)
    Larry would also cringe at the colon before the quoted text, but again, this is a question of style.
    Source

    In truth, the "May I..." is entirely artificial. There is no question, not even a rhetorical question. Drop the "May".
    I conclude: be careful what you wish for, as you might just get it.
    This also drops the style of using a capital after a colon :)

    Punctuation is a lot of fun. There are many styles, and although there is a lot of common ground there are also some quite dramatic clashes.
     
  16. Icetrance Senior Member

    US English
    May I conclude with: "Be careful what you wish for, as you might just get it?

    That just seems so bizarre, even though it is correct in the US.

    How would one properly punctuate the sentence in the UK?
     
  17. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    May I conclude with: be careful what you wish for, as you might just get it.
    It is not a question, so no question mark.
    It is not a quotation, so no quotation marks.
    I suggest a colon, but could be persuaded to another fairly substantial punctuation mark.
    My colon relies on an implicit "this".
    May I conclude with this: be careful what you wish for, as you might just get it.
     
  18. Icetrance Senior Member

    US English
    Very interesting analysis.

    Why is the punctuation of what precedes the colon take precedence over what follows it, particularly if there are two clauses on each side thereof?

    Examples:

    Why does this mean: where are you going? (both questions, so doesn't matter)

    Why do you like screaming this when we argue: Never, never, never again will I fight with you!
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2010
  19. delv New Member

    English - NY, USA
    Hello, all. I know I'm digging up an old thread...

    I am in the middle of writing a linguistics (semantics) paper (due at midnight!) and I was unsure as to how to handle the following construction:

    Does the following hold?: (e)[flying(e) & Subj(e, J)].

    Based on what some of you have said, the best approach may be to drop the colon altogether. But that irks me, to be honest. What is clear is that I cannot include quotation marks as some of you have in the examples enumerated above. Is this a unique problem because I'm dealing with a "series of one?" It's also unwieldy to incorporate the equation into the sentence as an object. Thoughts? Thanks a lot!

    P.S. Are all of you guys/gals on here prescriptivists?
     
  20. airportzombie

    airportzombie Senior Member

    Toronto
    English - CaE/AmE
    You'll never see a colon and a question mark together like that (unless it's some sort of emoticon). I would replace the period with the question mark and keep the colon.
    Does the following hold: (∃e)[flying(e) & Subj(e, J)]?
    Equations or formulas can be long and cumbersome, and grammatical punctuation may be mistaken for being a part of the equation or formula. You'll sometimes see equations separated from the running text in order to make it clearer.
    Does the following equation hold?
    (∃e)[flying(e) & Subj(e, J)]
    You should refer to your educational institution's style guide for their recommendations and preferences.
     
  21. rich7 Senior Member

    caracas
    Venezuela español
    Very well explained¡
     
  22. delv New Member

    English - NY, USA

    Thanks. The indented option seems best, when possible.
     
  23. Fabulist Senior Member

    Annandale, Virginia, USA
    American English
    I missed this thread last January, when a myth was propagated that stupid Americans require all question marks to be within quotation marks. I know we're dumb (international tests prove it), but we're not that dumb! The rule I was taught, and have found in American style manuals, is that a question mark is placed inside the quotation marks if it is part of the matter being quoted, but outside if it is not:

    He asked, "Who's there?"
    Did he say, "It wasn't me"?

    The more general American rule is that periods and commas always go inside (even if not part of the matter being quoted), questions marks and exclamation points are variable depending on whether they are part of the quoted matter, and everything else—semicolons, colons, dashes—always goes outside.

    I think it would be most inadvisable to use quotation marks with equations, where the exact typography is very important. That's why equations in mathematical discussions are set on separate lines. Only in non-technical use would I put an equation within quotation marks. Example:
    I was a dud at math in school. Math classes were an agony. I nearly flunked every math class I took. I never did figure out what I was supposed to do with "a² + b² = c²" or "Y = a + bX." I was glad to graduate and never do any math again!
    Americans aren't dumb enough to try to combine colons with question marks or exclamation points, either, or at least we do have editors and careful writers who aren't. If one wanted to ask, "Which of the following equations best expresses this relationship", the question could be followed by a question mark and the alternatives listed on separate lines.
    Which of the following best expresses this relationship?
    Y = a + bX
    or
    Y² = a² + b²X²
    (This example isn't supposed to be mathematically logical.) No punctuation is required after the second equation.

    Personally, I do know what to do with a² + b² = c² and Y = a + bX and use them from time to time.
     

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