Skip to main content

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.

Click to continue.

Janet Key: On Letting Your Novel Take Shape

Janet Key: On Letting Your Novel Take Shape

Author Janet Key discusses the experience of letting the novel take shape through the editorial process for her debut novel, Twelfth.

Benjamin Myers: On Fleeting Moments Becoming Finished Novels

Benjamin Myers: On Fleeting Moments Becoming Finished Novels

Award-winning author and journalist Benjamin Myers discusses the out-of-body experience of having the idea for his new novel, The Perfect Golden Circle.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: 7 WDU Courses, a Chat With Ran Walker, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce even WDU courses, a chat about flash fiction with Ran Walker, and more!

Christopher Stollar | How to Crowdfund Your Book

How to Crowdfund Your Book

Crowdfunding in publishing has received a lot of attention in recent months. Successful crowd-funder and author Chris Stollar shares his tips for realistic and practical tips to make crowdfunding work for you.

12 Dos and Don’ts of Revealing Critical Backstory in a Novel

12 Dos and Don’ts of Revealing Critical Backstory in a Novel

How much backstory is too much backstory, and how do we know when we haven’t given enough? Here, bestselling author Jenna Kernan offers six dos and six don’ts of revealing critical backstory in a novel.

How and Why To Turn Your Play Into a Novel

How and Why To Turn Your Play Into a Novel

Award-winning novelist and playwright Lynne Kaufman discusses the differences, similarities, and benefits of turning your play into a novel.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Thinking There’s Not Enough Room for Your Story

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Thinking There’s Not Enough Room for Your Story

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's mistake is thinking there's not enough room for your story.

The Head and the Heart: 5-Minute Memoir

The Head and the Heart: 5-Minute Memoir

In this article from the March/April 2022 issue of Writer's Digest, Lauryne Wright writes about rejection, rumination, and staying true to the creative voice inside ourselves.

Sophie Irwin: On Connecting With Readers

Sophie Irwin: On Connecting With Readers

Author Sophie Irwin discusses her pipe-dream-turned-reality of writing her historical fiction rom-com, A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting.