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03/30/2011

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Valerie (Kyriosity)

I remember asking a similar question in my 9th grade English class. In my case is was about a question within a question:

Why did she ask, "Where are you going?"?

I wanted that second question mark. I still want it.

So you'd think I'd agree with your wish to have the ? + , combination, but I'm afraid I don't. While it might fulfill my craving for logical application of the rules, it seems to me that the reader really doesn't need it. What do you think it would add to the sentence?

Of course I do agree with that the rewrite is the best solution, but it's still worthwhile to explore these technicalities!

Patricia Boyd

Ah, Valerie, a person after my own heart. I, too, wondered about the question-in-a-question situation. As a matter of fact, I posted it on the Chicago Manual of Style forum (http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/forum.html; if you're a member of the forum, go to Punctuation, and search for "Double question mark"). Although the other forum contributors to my question disagreed, I felt that it should be ?"? I also agree that there's no need for the comma in Mike's example, but maybe that's just because I'm used to American punctuation rather than British.

Carol Fisher Saller

It's not that I think Mike's question demands a comma; it's that I'd like the comma to be accepted anywhere it normally would if there were no question mark. Here's an example:

The answer to "Dare I?" should you ask me, is obvious.

It's more clear with a comma:

The answer to "Dare I?," should you ask me, is obvious.

Valerie (Kyriosity)

Patricia -- Yes, I remember that thread. I'm surprised I didn't put my oar into that conversation!

Carol -- You're right, and that example makes it even more obvious. Fight on, sister! ;-)

Patricia Boyd

Valerie--The obsessive in me feels compelled to mention that CMOS, 16th ed., section 6.120, did have an answer to my question-in-a-question question (otherwise known as QIQQ). I just happened to see it now. It suggests using just one of the marks unless they're different or the meaning is unclear. So I guess it's just
What do you say when someone asks, "Can I help you?"

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