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Question Mark Placement in Dialogue

Questioning your question mark usage in dialogue? Editor Jane Friedman has the scoop on proper placement.

Q: When writing dialog where one character poses a question to another, where do you place the question mark? Does it go inside the quote mark or at the end of the entire sentence? –Tamara T.

(Click here to view our 12 most popular grammar posts.)

A: The question mark should always appear at the end of the question—whether that's the end of the sentence or not. If two of your characters are having a conversation, the dialogue (and proper punctuation placement) might go something like this:

"Why are you growing a mustache?" asked Jonathon.
"Why do you care?" said Cliff.
Jonathon responded, "Why did you answer my question with a question?"

It's important to note that whenever the question falls inside quote marks, the question mark generally falls inside the quote marks (as shown in the examples above). The only real exception to the rule is when a character is quoting another character, and the use of single quote marks inside double quote marks come into play. 

Question Mark Placement in Dialogue

For example:

"Did you really just ask me if I answered your 'question with a question'?" asked Cliff.

Placing the question mark on the wrong side of the quote is a rookie mistake made by writers—and one that agents will notice. Be sure to get it right and stay consistent.

Grammar and Mechanics

Do you remember the difference between the 8 parts of speech and how to use them? Are you comfortable with punctuation and mechanics? No matter what type of writing you do, mastering the fundamentals of grammar and mechanics is an important first step to having a successful writing career.

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