A question mark both inside and outside of quotation marks?

Canis Snupus Snupus

Senior Member
English - Australian
Hi everyone

What would be the correct punctuation for the underlined bit of dialogue?

A: I sure hope nothing happens to John over in Japan.

B: Wait. What?

A: What do you mean "What?"?

B: Since when was John going to Japan?

A: Oh, he didn't tell you?


I think two question marks are needed, since one belongs to the quote and the other to the question, but it looks a bit weird. Is it nonetheless correct?


Thanks
 
  • elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    It is correct. I don’t know why sdgraham objects to it.

    Why did James ask, “Why are you here?”?

    Both question marks are necessary.
     

    cubaMania

    Senior Member
    I have to disagree. The general rule is that there can be only one sentence-ending punctuation mark at the end of any sentence, regardless of whether it is a statement, question, or exclamation.
    What do you mean "What?":tick:

    By analogy: We don't put two periods when we quote a statement, do we?
    He said "I'm not feeling well."
    In BE the period might go outside the quotation marks, but there would still be only one period.
     

    cubaMania

    Senior Member
    Double Trouble
    Finally, what do you do when faced with two end punctuation marks? Can you use both? In a word, no. See, there’s a hierarchy of sorts in punctuation. The exclamation mark trumps the question mark, and both trump the period.

    Use just one ending punctuation mark with quotation marks. If a question ends with a quotation containing an exclamation mark, the exclamation mark will override the question. Got that?
    More information here: Quotation marks at the end of a sentence
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    This is what I know:

    If the sentence would normally end with a period, the period is omitted. But question marks and exclamation points are not omitted:

    He asked, "Why are you here?"
    Why did he ask, "Why are you here?"?
    I can't believe it! He asked, "Why are you here?"!
     

    cubaMania

    Senior Member

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    From gsbe.co.uk

    But things get complicated again when a quoted question appears in a sentence that is itself a question :
    Was it Cain or Abel who said, ‘Am I my brother's keeper?’?

    Although a little clumsy looking, this is the logical punctuation: two questions, two question marks. But both British and American English diverge again and use just one question mark, placing it inside the quotation marks.
    Was it Cain or Abel who said, ‘Am I my brother's keeper?’

    To its credit, however, the Modern Humanities Research Association insists on the logical use.
    -------
    The problem for the writer, of course, is which method of punctuation to use. The choice can be only hers but, if she intends to publish, it is unlikely that the logical versions will survive the editor’s pencil, whether British or American.

    I'm a 'logical' writer.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    The two question marks are useful when the sentence is a question but not obviously so:

    A: "I am going to Detroit for my holiday."
    B: "You're going to Detroit?"
    D: "Did B say "You're going to Detroit?"? He sounded amazed, but A told him that a week ago."

    A: "I am going to Detroit for my holiday."
    B [To D]: "You're going to Detroit."
    C: [To A] "Did B say "You're going to Detroit"?"
     
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    Maître Capello

    Mod et ratures
    French – Switzerland
    Typographical rules are not universal and depend on style guides. They aren't always totally logical. I am however not aware of any style guides allowing double punctuation in English. You should choose one or the other, depending on clarity. Whenever you would like to use two question marks, most guides recommend keeping only the first, inside the quotation marks.

    Why did he ask, “Why are you here?”

    Was it Cain or Abel who said, ‘Am I my brother's keeper?’

    Did B say, “You're going go Detroit?”


    (By the way, please don't forget the comma before the quotation.)

    At any rate, the golden rule of typography is consistency. Just pick a style guide and stick to it.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I'm a 'logical' writer.
    Likewise!

    I also consider "double punctuation" a misnomer.

    Did she come to the party??
    This might be called "double punctuation."

    Did she say "How are you?"?
    This is not double punctuation, in my book. There is a single punctuation mark signaling the end of the sentence. The other question mark is part of the inserted quote and simply happens to sit right next to the sentence-ending question mark. I'm sure everyone can agree that Did she say "How are you?" when she saw you?, where the two question marks are separated by words, is the only correct way to punctuate that sentence.

    I think PaulQ makes an excellent point, with very illustrative examples. :thumbsup:
     

    Maître Capello

    Mod et ratures
    French – Switzerland
    I also consider "double punctuation" a misnomer.

    Did she come to the party??
    This might be called "double punctuation."
    Right, but those are best avoided as well. ;)

    Back to the topic, I see no risk of ambiguity in PaulQ's examples if using a single punctuation mark:

    A: “I am going to Detroit for my holiday.”
    B: “You're going to Detroit?”
    D: “Did B say, ‘You're going to Detroit?’” He sounded amazed, but A told him that a week ago.

    A: “I am going to Detroit for my holiday.”
    B [To D]: “You're going to Detroit.”
    C: [To A] “Did B say, ‘You're going to Detroit’?

    PS – Mind the proper placement of quotation marks as well as alternating single and double quotes.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I was struck by this quote in l_c's post 12:
    The problem for the writer, of course, is which method of punctuation to use. The choice can be only hers but, if she intends to publish, it is unlikely that the logical versions will survive the editor’s pencil, whether British or American.
    Has that been your experience, elroy and l_c, in writing for publication?
     
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    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Interestingly, Benjamin Dreyer, the American copy editor, on the question of potential double question marks or exclamation marks, in the UK edition of his recent book, Dreyer's English, asks himself whether we should double up when both the quoted material and the surrounding sentence demand emphatic or interrogative punctuation, and concludes that we should put only one question mark or exclamation mark, deciding for ourselves 'where the ! or the ? might more effectively reside'.

    In his two examples he decides in one way for one and another way for the other, thus:

    You'll be sorry if you ever again say to me, 'But you most emphatically are my dear friend'!

    Were Oscar Wilde's last words truly 'I'm dying, do you seriously think I want to talk about the decor?'
     
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    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I was struck by this quote in l_c's post 12:
    Has that been your experience, elroy and l_c, in writing for publication?
    Yes, I thought that was interesting too. However not having written anything for publication other than academic papers with no dialogue I've never come up against the problem.
     
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    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I agree with Elroy [#3] too.

    Quoted from #8:
    there’s a hierarchy of sorts in punctuation. The exclamation mark trumps the question mark, and both trump the period.
    With all due respect to the author, this is what I would call 'hogwash' ... or possibly 'piffle' ... or even both.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Typographical rules are not universal and depend on style guides. They aren't always totally logical. I am however not aware of any style guides allowing double punctuation in English. You should choose one or the other, depending on clarity. Whenever you would like to use two question marks, most guides recommend keeping only the first, inside the quotation marks.
    :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup: Yes!
    t is correct. I don’t know why sdgraham objects to it.
    After nearly 30 years with america's oldest and largest news agency, I can speak to the publication aspect.
    The Associated Press Stylebook is the de facto style standard for America's journalism schools, as well as newspapers and other news providers -- the folks who generate hundreds of thousands words every day in the English language. It says:
    MULTIPLE QUESTIONS: Use a single question mark at the end of the full sentence;​
    Did you hear him say, "What right have you to ask about the riot?"
    As with all style guides, you are free to choose one or write your own -- unless, of course, your job depends upon doing it the way the company specifies. :rolleyes:
     
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