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" '

( )

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? Question mark

The following describes four main uses for the question mark. A further use is described in the Development Level.

In direct questions

The question mark (?) shows the end of a sentence which is a direct question i.e. one you are asking the reader. You start the next sentence with a capital letter.

If you describe a question rather than asking it directly, it does not need a question mark.


This is a direct question.
What are the implications of this for teaching?

This is not a direct question, so it has a full stop at the end, not a question mark.
Academic staff often ask what are the implications for their teaching.

With quotation marks or brackets

If a direct question is in quotation marks (" ") or in brackets ( ), the question mark goes inside the quotation marks or brackets (because it belongs to the words inside them).

You then put a full stop after the quotation marks or bracket (to show the end of the whole sentence).


Students ask "How will the assessment criteria affect our grades?".

Students are concerned about assessment criteria (how will they affect their grades?).

Who claims that "academic staff are concerned about this"?
The phrase inside the quotation marks is not a question, but a statement. The question mark belongs to Who claims that, so it comes at the end of the sentence.

© Learning & Teaching Institute, Sheffield Hallam University 2004