The Question Is What Happened to the Question Mark?

A reader recently asked what had happened to the question mark. She thinks that people are growing reluctant to use the question mark. We will go through use of the question mark because it is sometimes confusing.

The biggest confusion will come in determining whether the thing you are asking is a direct question or a polite request.

polite request will not use a question mark but will use a period instead.

  • Will you please get the attorney’s signature on this pleading and return it to me. (Not really a question because you expect them to do it.)
  • May I suggest that you research flight times before you book the travel.

With a direct question, use a question mark:

  • Will you be able to join us after work?
  • What time do you start working every morning?

When you have a question with quotation marks, the question mark should come at the end of the question:

  • He asked “What color car does he drive?”
  • Did you type the document called “Motion for Summary Judgment or, in the Alternative, for Summary Adjudication”?

The first bullet point shows where the quotation is the question so the question mark goes inside the quotation mark. The second bullet shows that the question is the entire sentence and not just what is in quotation marks, so the question mark goes outside the quotation mark.

Where you are using a rhetorical question (one that you really don’t expect an answer to), you should use a question mark.

  • Who decided hell’s weather should be in Arizona this week?
  • Who died and made you boss?

Where you have a condensed (or elliptical) question (where a word or phrase represents a complete question), use a question mark.

  • Jill said she was having a celebration party. When? (Representing the complete question “When is the celebration party?”)

Punctuate both complete and elliptical questions to reflect your meaning.

  • Where shall we meet? At the bus station? (Giving the option of meeting somewhere other than the bus station.)
  • Where shall we meet at the bus station? (Indicating that we are meeting at the bus station and the question is where at the bus station we will meet.)

We will continue with question marks in the next post. But go forth and ask questions and punctuate them correctly, OK?

Grammar Giggles – The Party Did What?

As some of you know, last week I started a new job that has really sucked the extra energy out of me. With apologies for not posting at all last week, I’m hoping some of you missed your “Proof It” fix and promise that I will make a concerted effort to research and post the blog post on Wednesday and to post two Grammar Giggles–one today and one on Friday. Thanks for your support! On to your Monday Grammar Giggle.

This was sent to me by a friend who received it from opposing counsel. It makes me wonder what this even means. It is incorrectly plural and incorrectly possessive. I can’t help but be embarrassed for this firm that this work product came out of their office–and I don’t even know which firm it is.


Grammar Giggles – Toco Bell

I looked at this several times before I figured out what was wrong. Then I looked at the actual Taco Bell website to make sure it was wrong and it wasn’t just me thinking that I knew what it was supposed to be. Then I just shook my head (which I do with a whole lot of these Grammar Giggles).

Locos Tocos                          Locos Tacos

Semicolons Help Keep The Flow . . . Ommmmm . . .

I must admit, semicolons are one area of grammar that scare me. I’m not sure why, but they do. That shows how much researching and writing these posts helps me as much as they hopefully help you.  Now on to our topic.

The semicolon is a mark of punctuation to be used when you want to connect two thoughts that are similar to one another. The best description I’ve seen is that a semicolon is like a soft period which separates the thoughts but keeps the flow of the first sentence.

Here are some rules for using semicolons:

  • With two independent clauses when the coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, or nor) is omitted to separate the clauses. One way to tell is when you could delete the semicolon and each clause could be a separate sentence. However, if the clauses are not closely related, go ahead and make them separate sentences.
  • Use a semicolon between two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction where you want a stronger break between the clauses.
  • When one or both of the independent clauses have internal commas and it could be misread without a semicolon to make it easier for your reader.
  • When independent clauses are separated by transitional expressions. Again, the second clause should be able to stand alone as a sentence. Below is a partial list of the transitional clauses:
    • accordingly
    • besides
    • consequently
    • for example (and use a comma after this phrase)
    • furthermore
    • hence
    • however
    • moreover
    • namely (However, if the first clause anticipates the second clause and the full emphasis falls on the second clause, use a colon rather than a semicolon before this word.)
    • nevertheless
    • on the contrary
    • otherwise
    • so (where so means “therefore,” it can be preceded by a comma or a semicolon. A comma should be used if the clauses are closely related and the first clause smoothly flows into the second. A semicolon or period should be used if the clauses are long and complicated or the clauses need a stronger transition between them such as a long pause or strong break.)
    • that is (use a comma after this phrase)
    • then
    • therefore
    • thus
    • yet (see parenthetical for so above)
  • Use a semicolon when items in a series already contain commas to keep from confusing the reader, i.e., Phoenix, Arizona; Denver, Colorado; and Dallas, Texas.

That’s it for now. This is a very busy, emotional, exciting, and gratitude-filled week for me as I leave one job with people I’ve worked with for over 15 years to a job at a brand new firm. How exciting is that going to be? I’m so up for this adventure! But first, as one of my associates said when I gave my notice, “So you’ve given your notice at work, what are you going to do now?” I’m going to Disneyland–with my daughter and my two oldest granddaughters celebrating their 13th birthdays. Enjoy your week!


Grammar Giggles – Surgery??

Here is the first page of a court document floating around on Twitter. I’m pretty sure it should say “back” surgery, but I suppose the other detail fits so I could be wrong. This is another example of just how important it is to actually read something before it is filed.


Grammar Giggles – Some States Should NOT Allow Mexican Food Restaurants

A friend visiting Ohio sent me a picture of the menu at a Mexican restaurant there. Living in Arizona, Mexican food is a staple and I’ve read lots of Mexican food menus in my lifetime. I’ve never seen anything like this and as much as I love jalapeno poppers, I don’t think I’d try them at a place that calls them “jalapeno pooppers.”

Ohio Mexican Food

Here a Resource, There a Resource, Everywhere a Resource

The best way to improve your proofreading skills is practice. But there are other resources available to help you learn or refresh your knowledge of grammar to improve your proofreading. Here are resources that I use regularly:


1.  The Gregg Reference Manual. (Available at This book is always on my desk (AND on my Kindle app) and is the first place I go when I need information. There are also some worksheets available if you really want to get your “learning” on.

2.  A dictionary. With all that is available online, there is no reason to misspell a word or not know what the word means. In addition, not only will define a specific word for you but gives you a word of the day and various quizzes to help you improve your vocabulary. There is always a hard copy dictionary as well. Every desk should have access to a dictionary–either book form or electronically.

3.  A thesaurus. I use the one that is part of Microsoft Word, particularly when I’m not sure whether the word being used is correct, such as affect/effect. It also helps if you’re not familiar with a word to make sure that it is being used in the correct context.

4.  Black’s Law Dictionary (or a more portable legal dictionary). I have a Barron’s Law Dictionary on my desk so I can prove to an attorney that it is statute of limitationS (among other legal words) or to look up a legal term that I don’t understand.

5.  Microsoft spell checker and grammar checker. While this is certainly not the “do all be all” of grammar, it can be helpful. Just don’t rely on Microsoft. As great as the Word program is, sometimes the operator has issues all his/her own. For instance, I have a terrible problem typing doe snot instead of does not. Since both doe and snot are correctly spelled, it doesn’t come up as an error. If I didn’t actually read the document, that kind of error would not be caught. The grammar checker can also be helpful but, again, is not enough.

6.  Websites. There are lots of websites, blogs, and other online information available. As with all things Internet, however, the authors of these websites and blogs are not incapable of making errors, so get the information and check it against another resource if necessary. My personal favorite is Grammar Girl ( Some other fun sites I have found are Grammar Bytes ( and Grammar Slammer (, although I’m sure there are plenty of others out there. Of course, I hope Proof That Blog ( is on YOUR list of resources.

That’s my short list. What is on your go to list of proofreading resources?


Grammar Giggles – Memorial Day!

Today I’ll start with thanks and undying gratitude for all those who serve our country so we can be free. I cherish my freedom and am thankful to all members of the armed services who make that available to me, including my dad, who served in Korea.

Now, since it’s Monday, here is another Grammar Giggle from a Twitter post. Enjoy your Memorial Day celebrations–just don’t do anything e-leagle!