Punctuation: Questions and quotation marks?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by MarkLondres, Jul 22, 2005.

  1. MarkLondres Senior Member

    Bogotá Colombia
    England/English
    When writing a written question that asks someone to repeat or clarify that which they have asked somebody already... where does the question mark go?

    I remeber from school that strictly speaking quote marks need to have punctuation just inside the end, but at the same if i am questioning what someone has asked then there are actually two questions. for example, which of the following is correct?

    1) When you called you mum last night did ask her "What do you want for your birthday"?
    2) When you called you mum last night did ask her "What do you want for your birthday?"
    3) When you called you mum last night did ask her "What do you want for your birthday?"?

    Always makes me think as it crops up surprisingly often in my day to day life.

    Mark
     
  2. VenusEnvy

    VenusEnvy Senior Member

    Maryland, USA
    English, United States
    The punctuation goes inside the quotation.

    :idea: I think sometimes the second question mark is omitted. (As the second s is sometimes in words like Chris' dog)

    Another ex.
    When you called your mom last night, you should have told her, "I already know what I'm going to get you."

    What do others think?



    This may be besides the points, but I would actually say, "When you called your mom last night, did you ask her what she wanted for her birthday?"
     
  3. la grive solitaire

    la grive solitaire Senior Member

    United States, English
    My choice would be no. 2: When you called your mum last night, did you ask her, "What do you want for your birthday?"

    Here, in part, is what the CMS has to say (Quotations, the second Q/A from the bottom), although BE could be different.

    Q. What did she mean when she said, “The foot now wears a different shoe”?
    Shouldn’t the question mark be INSIDE the quotation?

    A. If we had put the question mark inside the quotation marks, it would mean that the person was asking a question about the shoe. But the part about the shoe is a statement, not a question. The question is “What did she mean?” so the question mark must go outside the quotation marks.
     
  4. I agree with VenusEnvy and la grive solitaire, I also choose No. 2.
    However I will write, When you called your mom last night, did you ask her, "What do you want for your birthday?"
     
  5. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    NY
    US, English
    I always thought so, but it seems no one ever puts the punctuation outside the quotation marks anymore in any situation, so I stopped, even though it always looked funny to me. I should have stuck to my guns. I'm happy to read someone else state this!
     
  6. Aupick

    Aupick Senior Member

    Strasbourg, France
    UK, English
    I hate to say it, but I prefer 3, but then I'm a bit of a mathematician with punctuation marks, and since there are two questions, I think there should be two question marks.

    Luckily for me, I've found an authority, the MHRA Style Guide (British equivalent to MLA or CMS):
     
  7. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    You're a bit of a mathematician, all right! I'd be interested in knowing if any other authorities condone that [?'?] atrocity!

    Well, language has its all-important "engineering" component as well as the "musical," as I opined earlier. But the way I balance it out, these offered examples would never see the light of day-- or lurk in a closed book.

    Code:
     The pause is followed by Richard’s demanding ‘will no man say ‘‘Amen’’?’.
    Why does Shakespeare give Malcolm the banal question ‘Oh, by whom[b]?’?[/b] 
    By the way, the first example is so contorted that this maven of style had to deface the Shakespearean text to make his point. That should tell you something. When Richard says "will no man say Amen?" he does not use quotation marks.

    Yes, I left the commas out when I inserted that short quote. It's a matter of style that is arguably "wrong," easily so. To me the ear dictates whether there's a pause befor the quote-- some quotes are an indirect recitation, some are just terms in a sentence. Richard says something. Richard says, [and here you draw a breath and speak in Richard's stead]. To the highly-educated members here, I'm sure I seem to be making things like this up in defiance of what's "right." But I believe written language is a simulacrum of what is spoken, and voices have inflections, personalities. On the audible level, the convention of a comma is to indicate a pause-- and sure, there are times when it belongs "on the page," to avoid confusion.

    I agree there are conventions one might as well be consistent about-- the placement of a question mark inside a quotation mark is a matter of logic that doesn't affect inflection. So is the convention of placing punctuation marks outside of parentheses. Until punctilious adherence to the convention creates clutter-- in this case clutter that interferes with clarity (other than in the mathematical sense) because it stops the eye and interrupts the writer's message. At least for some readers. "Incorrectly" simplifying a convention to keep it from calling attention to itself-- purely a judgment call.

    We live in a time of incredible upheaval in usage. Fragmentary and run-on sentences are commonplace, and children learning English as their native language can't be expected to arm themselves with a rulebook and do battle against such odds. Hate it all you like, the mass communications industry in general (and advertising in particular) is wreaking fundamental changes. People who write such copy are trying to catch the "feel" of the spoken language, and their mimetic efforts in turn influence the way language is spoken. Academic resistance isn't futile-- I just come down, more than most here, in favor of the idea that conventions of punctuation and style are a little more optional and a little less mandatory.

    If you think that's bad, wait till mass-marketing homogenizes pronunciation a little more, and the conventions of spelling are swept away in a tsunami of "reform." In that case, I'll be among the diehards. Yes, that's jarringly inconsistent.
     
  8. MarkLondres Senior Member

    Bogotá Colombia
    England/English
    so have we opted for number 2? thanks for your help guys. but what if we were to encapsulate both in the form of a narrative? two questions and two quotes.

    1) So David said... "When you called you mum last night did ask her, "What do you want for your birthday?"?"
    2) So David said... "When you called you mum last night did ask her, "What do you want for your birthday?""

    I am presuming for the sake of this question that quotes ar elike parentheses and they have to match up either side of the sentence.
     
  9. la grive solitaire

    la grive solitaire Senior Member

    United States, English
    No. 2, but using single quotes to set off the quote-within-the quote.

    2) So David said... "When you called your mum last night, did you ask her, 'What do you want for your birthday?'"
     
  10. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    A quote within a quote is marked off by single (') quotation marks. Make that change and the punctuation is correct. I didn't look, but I imagine someone else has corrected "your mum" and "did you ask her" by now.
     
  11. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This is verging on pedantry gone berserk.
    The "correct" answer must be clear, must communicate the meaning effectively and, most important of all for punctuation, should not be noticed.

    Speaking as a card-carrying pedant, the notion of using two ?'s at the end of a sentence makes me want to puke, so that won't do.
    So we can have only one of them.

    The sensible place to put it is wherever the question that starts nearest stops. Which is inside the "" in this case.

    I would defend robustly the version that has the grammatical typos repaired and reads as:

    When you called your mum last night did you ask, "What do you want for your birthday?".

    But that is not what I would say, or write myself:
    When you called your mum last night did you ask her what she wanted for her birthday?

    Other topics such as where, in general, to place punctuation when the sentence ends with a quote - and whether to use single quotes inside double or vice versa - do not have an absolute answer.

    Refer to the house style for wherever you are writing for, or pick the house style of somewhere you respect. AE and BE have different norms on both of these.
     
  12. la grive solitaire

    la grive solitaire Senior Member

    United States, English
    :thumbsup: Exactly! You took the words out of my mouth. Choose a style manual and stick with it.
     
  13. MarkLondres Senior Member

    Bogotá Colombia
    England/English
    hi guys, thanks once again for all your help. i am by no means a pedant, but i am grateful that at least one or two of you are. If it's worth doing it is worth doing right, and for me, "right" only meant getting a consensus from a handful of people that had the inclination to think about it.

    in summary
    question marks inside the last "
    questions within questions in a single quote

    thanks for your time and apologies for my shoddy spelling, i am accustomed to MS word autocorrecting and giving me red way underlining, capitalising my I´s etc.

    Best wishes

    Mark
     
  14. MarkLondres Senior Member

    Bogotá Colombia
    England/English
    The house style of whoever I am writing for???
    I am a builder!
     
  15. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Disable the autocorrect feature! How can you put up with it?

    Panjandrum, are you sure you like [?".] at the end of that first sentence? I don't see much difference between the period and a second question mark in that context. For me it definitely violates the rule against calling attention to itself.
     
  16. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Aha! YOU WILL NEED TO USE BLOCK LETTERS THEN AND YOU WILL HAVE TO BE CAREFUL THAT EVERY SENTENCE YOU WRITE IS MUCH LONGER THAN ANYONE COULD REASONABLY EXPECT AND THAT OF COURSE YOU ALWAYS.....

    ...have to leave the sentence unfinished:)

    No:eek: I think I like it, but I'm not sure. I would need to see it in a sentence of my own to be sure. It's a bit like the shirt that looks fine in the shop - I can't really be sure I like it until I try it on. But it is what my instinct says I should write, and by now I am inclined to rely on that.
     
  17. modgirl Senior Member

    USA English, French, Russian
    I agree wholeheartedly.


    I must disagree vehmently. I've never seen where a period is placed on the outside of a quotation mark. It looks as silly as two question marks!

    Here are some various examples that I copied verbatim from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition:

    The ambassador asked, "Has the Marine Corps been alerted?"

    (my note: although the quote and the original sentence are both questions, only one question mark is needed)

    Why was Farragut trembling when he said, "I'm here to open an inquiry"?

    (my note: "I'm here to open an inquiry" is not a question, but the sentence in which it is included is a question and thus requires a question mark)

    "What do you suppose he had in mind," inquired Newman, "when he said, 'You are all greater fools than I thought'?"
     
  18. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I agree-- in fact I made the same point earlier about [?".]


    But in all your examples of declaratory quotes contained in interrogatory sentences, I'd still put the question mark inside the quotation mark. Yes, the statement in quotes is not a question, but if you read it aloud, the interrogatory intonation rises exactly as it would if it were. The declaratory quoted insert sounds like a question, so I'd use punctuation to reflect that.

    Besides, you yourself laid down a precept about a period never belonging outside a quotation mark. Why doesn't that rule apply to a question mark?

    Oh, same principle applies to your last example, which I'd punctuate [?'"]
     
  19. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I would defend robustly your right to disagree. I said earlier that I was uncertain on this point. I have just checked in the Oxford English Grammar (OEG - the style guide I use) and I see that it shares my uncertainty – it clearly would support either …?” or …?”. at the end.:)
    As we are now quoting from different style guides this debate is really rather pointless – but hey, there’s no reason that should stop us;)
    This example supports the ..?” alternative – consistent with OEG. The quote is a question, the sentence is not.
    In this example I would end with - ...an inquiry,”? - first, then look at it and probably get rid of the comma. I'd start with the comma because it would have been there if the sentence had continued - ...an inquiry,” so loudly?
    Same comment as first quote.



    Sorry to go on at length:)
     
  20. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    NY
    US, English
    In AE at least, a comma precedes an open quotation mark (or so they taught it when I was attending school).
     
  21. modgirl Senior Member

    USA English, French, Russian
    I don't know of any official explanation, but a period just doesn't have the exact same rules as a question mark.


    Do you have any sources that back up your opinion? I agree very much with Chicago on this one. It looks silly to use a question mark when the quote is not a question!
     
  22. modgirl Senior Member

    USA English, French, Russian


    Well, that explains it -- I haven't studied British English, only American! However, it looks very awkward to my eyes.
     
  23. VenusEnvy

    VenusEnvy Senior Member

    Maryland, USA
    English, United States
    Did you want to substitute one of those "question"'s for a "quotation"?
     
  24. MarkLondres Senior Member

    Bogotá Colombia
    England/English
    or a period/ full stop
     
  25. modgirl Senior Member

    USA English, French, Russian
    Not quite. Here's how it should have read: I don't know of any official explanation, but a question mark just doesn't have the exact same rules as a period.


    Sorry -- my brain often works much faster than my hands, and as a consequence, words get muddled. Especially in a forum like this, I need to slow down.
     
  26. meagain9969 Junior Member

    Mexico. Spanish
    Let me see if I got it, after all this extensive explanation.

    When you call your mum last night, did you ask her "what do you want for your birthday?"

    The sentence above is ok. I needed to include the comma.

    Thanks
     
  27. GenJen54

    GenJen54 Senior Member

    Downright Pleasant, USA
    USA - English
    When you call your mum last night, did you ask her "what do you want for your birthday?"

    Just a minor correction, "When you called your mom...."
     
  28. meagain9969 Junior Member

    Mexico. Spanish
    Thanks a lot Genjen54.
     
  29. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska


    2) When you called your mum last night, did you ask her, "What do you want for your birthday?"

    I think this would do. IMHO, the question mark in the citation serves for both questions in this sentence and using two ?’s would be redundant.



    What about such sentences:

    This example is given by MHRA in their style guide, despite the logical number of question marks (a question + a title (which itself is a question)) it looks rather strange, doesn’t it? What do you think of it?

    Thanks in advance,
    Thomas
     
  30. James Stephens Senior Member

    Oklahoma, USA
    English, USA
    The question mark goes outside the quotation marks when the whole sentence is a question. The question mark goes inside the quotation mark if it applies only to the quoted material. In that case, it ends the sentence.
    Did he say, "What am I doing here"?
    He said, "What am I doing here?"
     
  31. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I think you're right about the punctuational cluster...uh, clusters. They call attention to themselves, and thus violate Star Federation's Prime Directive for punctuation-- don't do that.

    If there's a question at the end of a sentence and it involves a quoted question within an indicative statement, there will be certain punctuation marks-- a question mark and a quote mark. Parsing the different "orders of precedence" to create different categories of clusters, each in a slightly different order-- is pointless. There's a visual interrogative indicator, a quote indicator, and they go in a certain order. If there's only one order, then that which ought to be inconspicuous is made so.

    The punctilious logic of which side of the "fence" the [?] belongs on is an imposition that has nothing to do with communicating in plain English, whether aloud or in mimickry of speech, which is what the written word, to whatever extent possible, should be.

    As for "authority" to simplify in this way, to use [?"] in defiance of logic that emerges "on closer examination," you can find it in any decent stylebook's escape clause for punctuation-- if it looks awkward, if it calls attention to itself, it needs to be simplified or omitted. If the sentence is ambiguous without a comma that shouldn't belong there, but which you "hear" there-- but the damn comma in!

    Rulebooks and style books are an aid, but independent judment is required for finetuning all the intricacies that make for communication-- and you are in charge of what you write.
    .
     
  32. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    If the entire sentence, including the material within the closing quotes, is a question, place the question mark outside the quote. {Have you read Panjandrum's "My Life is a Question Mark"?}

    If only the quoted material is a question, place the question mark inside the closing quote. {I heard you say, "What is the question?"}

    In AE, the comma and the period go inside the closing quotation marks at all times. No exceptions.
     
  33. duvija

    duvija Senior Member

    Chicago
    Spanish - Uruguay
    An editor corrected the following sentence (an article about Slumdog Millonaire):"

    "Knowing that Loveleen Tandan was a critical part of Slumdog's filmaking and marketing phases, how can we all sit by and watch while she's totally ignored in the awards phase?" Huttner asked (in her blog...)

    and proposed the following:
    "Knowing that Loveleen Tandan was a critical part of Slumdog's filmaking and marketing phases, how can we all sit by and watch while she's totally ignored in the awards phase?," Huttner asked (in her blog...)

    Which of the two versions is more common in AE?

    thank you
     
  34. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    The first is correct. The second would normally be regarded as an error by teachers and editors.
     
  35. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    ... as I'm sure it would in BE too.
     

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