Writing Glitch #151

Today’s glitch:


End a question with a question mark (d’uh), and don’t end a non-question with one. Simple, right?

This example is tricky, though, because the first sentence does need a question mark… It just doesn’t need it where it currently is.

The first sentence contains a quotation. The exclamation point goes with that quotation, but the question mark goes with the sentence as a whole, because quotation or not, the speaker is asking, “What do you mean?”

What do you mean, “I can’t believe you read the whole book already!”? What are you supposed to do once it’s open?



About Thomas Weaver

I’m a writer and editor who got into professional editing almost by accident years ago when a friend from university needed someone to copyedit his screenplay about giant stompy robots (mecha). Having discovered that I greatly enjoy this kind of work, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use ever since as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. I'm physically disabled, and for the past several years, I’ve lived with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have six cats. (The preferred term is "Insane Cat Gentleman.") I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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3 Responses to Writing Glitch #151

  1. Sheron says:

    This was a good one. Tricky.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Quintessential Editor says:

    I have 6.120 in the CMS earmarked because I’ve been told I’m a madman for suggesting this revision. I think it’s an understandable sentiment given how bizarre the correct version looks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The correct version does look odd, I agree. On the other hand, so does the incorrect version. (To avoid the issue entirely, it could be rewritten as this: What do you mean, you can’t believe I read the whole book already? What am I supposed to do once it’s open?)


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