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Punctuation in referencing

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? Question mark

To show you want a statement to be read as a question

When talking, people may ask questions which are not phrased as such, but you know they are questions by the way their voice rises or by their facial expression.

A question mark can show such non-verbal signals. In writing, you can turn a statement into a question by putting a question mark at the end instead of a full stop.


The person who tries hardest doesn't always win. This is fair.
The person who tries hardest doesn't always win. This is fair?

Note. Exclamation marks can also show non-verbal signals, such as surprise (see Exclamation mark in this topic menu). Using either a question mark or an exclamation mark changes the meaning.


What are they doing?
What are they doing!

In direct questions

Using direct questions which end in a question mark (?) can involve the reader and create an impact. However, if you do this too often it reduces the impact and may irritate the reader.

© Learning & Teaching Institute, Sheffield Hallam University 2004