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.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Bad Choice

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Bad Choice

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character make a bad choice.

5 Tips for Incorporating Sensitive Family Material Into a Memoir

5 Tips for Incorporating Sensitive Family Material Into a Memoir

Wading into the murky waters of the past to write a memoir is only half the battle. Here, author Elisa Bernick shares 5 tips for incorporating sensitive family material into a memoir.

Adam Hochschild: On Unlearned History Repeating Itself

Adam Hochschild: On Unlearned History Repeating Itself

Award-winning author Adam Hochschild discusses the surprising things he learned in writing his new historical nonfiction book, American Midnight.

7 Outlets to Consider for Your Journalism

7 Outlets to Consider for Your Journalism

Journalist Alison Hill shares seven outlets for writers to consider when trying to place their journalism, including newspapers, podcasts, newsletters, and more.

5 Insights on Writing About Challenging Topics With Children in Age-Friendly Ways (and Why It’s Important To Do So)

5 Insights on Writing About Challenging Topics With Children in Age-Friendly Ways (and Why It’s Important To Do So)

Children are often the ones most effected by both major policy changes and personal family changes, making engaging with them on tough topics critical. Here, public health specialist and writer Patty Mechael shares 5 insights on writing about challenging topics with children in age-friendly ways.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 629

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write an avoidance poem.

What Are Submission Guidelines in Writing?

What Are Submission Guidelines in Writing?

In this post, we answer the question of what are submission guidelines in writing, and we look at how writers can take advantage of them to find more success getting published.

3 Tips for Crafting a Character That Can Carry a Series

3 Tips for Crafting a Character That Can Carry a Series

From planting characteristics early on to understanding the expectations of your genre, author Mia P. Manansala shares 3 tips for crafting a character that can carry a series.

Quite the Reward

Quite the Reward

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, your character rescues a creature that turns out to be a powerful being.