question mark

question mark
   has become an overworked embellishment of the expression "a question hanging over," which is itself weary-ingly overused. Consider: "The case . . . has raised a question mark over the competence of British security" (Times). Would you say of a happy event that it had raised an exclamation mark over the proceedings or that negotiations that had been suspended had a comma hanging over them?
   The question mark comes at the end of a question. That sounds simple enough, doesn't it? But its astonishing how frequently writers fail to include it. Two random examples:" 1 Why travel all the way there when you could watch the whole thing at home/ he asked" (Times); "The inspector got up to go and stood on Mr. Ellis's cat, killing it. 'What else do you expect from these people/ said the artist" (Standard).
   Occasionally question marks are included when they are not called for, as in this sentence by Trollope, cited by Fowler: "But let me ask of her enemies whether it is not as good a method as any other known to be extant?" The problem here is a failure to distinguish between a direct question and an indirect one. Direct questions always take question marks: "Who is going with you?" Indirect questions never do: "I would like to know who is going with you."
   When direct questions take on the tone of a command, the use of a question mark becomes more discretionary. "Will everyone please assemble in my office at four o'clock?" is strictly correct, but not all authorities insist on the question mark there.
   A less frequent problem arises when a direct question appears outside a direct quotation. Fieldhouse, in Everyman's Good English Guide, suggests that the following punctuation is correct: "Why does this happen to us, we wonder?" The Fowler brothers, however, call this an amusing blunder; certainly it is extremely irregular. The more usual course is to attach the question mark directly to the question. Thus: "Why does this happen to us? we wonder." But such constructions are clumsy and are almost always improved by being turned into indirect questions: "We wonder why this happens to us."

Dictionary of troublesome word. . 2013.

Игры ⚽ Нужно решить контрольную?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • question mark — ˈquestion mark noun [countable] a question mark over if there is a question mark over something, there is a possibility that it will not be successful or will not continue to exist: • There is a big question mark over the bank s long term future …   Financial and business terms

  • question mark — 1. The principal use of the question mark (?) is to indicate a direct question: Are they leaving tomorrow? / What time is it? It is also used when the question is put in the form of a statement: They told you that? / Surely it s the same one? / I …   Modern English usage

  • question mark — n 1.) the mark (?) that is used at the end of a question 2.) there is a question mark over sth/a question mark hangs over sth used to say that there is a possibility that something will not be successful or will not continue to exist ▪ A big… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • question mark — question marks 1) N COUNT A question mark is the punctuation mark ? which is used in writing at the end of a question. 2) N COUNT: oft N over n If there is doubt or uncertainty about something, you can say that there is a question mark over it.… …   English dictionary

  • question mark — question ,mark noun count * the symbol ? that is used at the end of a sentence to show that it represents a question. It is a type of punctuation mark. a question mark over something a doubt about whether something is good or correct, or whether… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • question mark — n. 1. a mark of punctuation (?) put after a sentence, word, etc. to indicate a direct question, and also used to express doubt, uncertainty, etc.; interrogation mark ☆ 2. an unknown factor …   English World dictionary

  • question mark — ► NOUN ▪ a punctuation mark (?) indicating a question …   English terms dictionary

  • Question Mark —   [engl.], Fragezeichen …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Question mark — ? redirects here. For other uses, see Question mark (disambiguation). For the backwards or mirrored question mark used to indicate irony or sarcasm, see percontation point. For Wikipedia s help pages, see Help:Contents ? Question mark …   Wikipedia

  • question mark —  has become an overworked embellishment of the expression a question hanging over, which is itself wearyingly overused. Consider: The case... has raised a question mark over the competence of British security (The Times). Would you say of a happy …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

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