“My Question Is…”

This construction always causes consternation and no end of disagreement. This is my understanding of the way English grammar works.

It is never correct to use a single separating comma between the verb and the predicate nominative. Surely no one wants a comma in the following examples.

…My name is Margie.
…Her response is that she was not home.
…My question was how long he was there.

When the predicate nominative is asking a question, (which is not particularly good grammar), I do not know of a separate rule that allows a comma to separate that question from the main part of the sentence. I would like the use of a comma between the verb and the predicate nominative explained from a grammar standpoint. How is it okay to put one separating comma in the middle of that sentence, which we do not do in the previous examples? How does the question there change the rule?

…My question is where did you go?
…My question is were you all there?

There is a rule that says that, when there are two parts to a sentence, one that is making a statement and one that is asking a question, it is the part at the end that determines the terminal punctuation.

…My question is when did he arrive?
…When did he arrive? is my question.

Happy punctuating!

Margie

A Period or a Question Mark?

When the witness repeats the question or part of the question and then answers it, use a question mark after the question and let the rest of the answer stand on its own.

…Q   Was it after 10:00 that he called that night?
…A    Was it after 10:00? Yes.

…Q   What was the attire for the meeting?
…A   What was the attire? It was business attire.

…Q   Were you there alone?
…A    Was I alone? No.

…Q   Do you own a personal computer?
…A   Do I have a computer? Of course.

If what he repeats is not in the form of a question, then it can take a comma or a question mark, depending on the intonation.

…Q   Did you join him for dinner after that meeting?
…A   For dinner, yes.
OR
…A   For dinner? Yes.

…Q   Did you buy a new car during that time period?
…A   A new car, yes.
OR
…A   A new car? Yes.

Happy punctuating!

Margie

Two Questions

Even when said as one thought with NO pause and NO change of the timbre of the voice, this construction takes two question marks.
 
…Were your car windows open? Do you remember?
…Was your radio on? Do you know?
 
Reversing the subject and verb in English is the indication that there is a question. These are questions — two questions. And if the answer is just “Yes” or “No,” refer back to the blog post of a few days ago for the follow-up that the attorney must then ask.
Happy punctuating!
Margie

“Where are you going? is my question.”

When there are two parts to a sentence, one a statement and one a question, it is the part at the end that determines the terminal punctuation.

…My question is where are you going?
…Where are you going? is my question.

In the second example, since the sentence ends in a period, there has to be a question mark mid-sentence at the end of the question.

This is another way to put it: In the second sentence the whole question is actually the subject of the sentence. The word “question” is the predicate nominative. The insertion of the question mark mid-sentence is because that is where the question is being asked. The end of the statement is a question and needs a period.

Happy punctuating!

Margie

 

Put the Question Mark Where the Question Is First Asked

It seems as if I just addressed this, but I looked back and don’t see it.

The only way to consistently punctuate questions is to follow this rule: Put the question mark where the question is first asked; where, if the attorney had just stopped and waited, s/he could have gotten an answer.

…What was she wearing? Did you notice?
…What was she wearing? A jacket or a coat?
…What was she wearing? I am talking about on the night of the incident. (or ? depending on intonation)

…Where did it come from? The right? The left?
…Where did it come from? The right or the left?
…Where did it come from? The right, the left, or the middle?

Questions that go on after the first question is asked should be handled in this format.

Happy punctuating!

Margie

Quotes

Periods and commas go inside quotes without exception; colons and semicolons go outside quotes without exception.

Question marks go inside or outside quotes depending on where the question is being asked: If there is a question inside the quotes, the question mark goes inside; if there is no question inside the quotes but there is one outside, the question mark goes outside.

…He said, “What do you think you are doing?”
…Did he say, “What do you think you are doing?”

…Did he say, “I am not sharing this with you”?

Happy punctuating!

Margie

“Do You Know What I Mean?” and Other Nonquestions

When someone has a language “glitch” and uses a word or phrase over and over, that word or phrase is surrounded by commas.

…He was, like, on the, you know, edge that day.
…The company, like, you know, did not really have, like, a policy, you know, on that.

When this type of element is normally a question but is being used as just a “glitch,” the same rule applies — unless the intent is really to ask a question.

…He was in charge — right? — of the night crew? (“Right?” of course, is a tag clause that turns the whole sentence into a question.)

…I am asking you — okay? — to change your seat. (He is really asking the guy to change seats.)

When words like “right” and “okay” are sprinkled throughout sentences, they are no longer really asking a question. They should be surrounded by commas as throwaways as the true intent of asking a question is not really present.

…He was sitting, right, near the door, right, when I saw him, right, for the first time.
…I know, okay, that he was intending, okay, to fire the manager, okay, when I was hired.

Happy punctuating!

Margie

Sentence Within a Sentence

If a question is dropped inside a statement or question, put a pair of dashes around it and a question mark after it.

…He was standing near — were you aware of him at the time? — the desk of the boss.
…I am going to read to you — can you hear me? — from your deposition of yesterday.

Do not cap after a dash unless the word ALWAYS has to be capped.

Grammar class starts tomorrow. It is not too late to join us.

Happy punctuating!

Margie

Put the Interrog Where the Question Is First Asked

First, when the situation is that the attorney has asked a question, using question word order and then does not just keep quiet and get his answer but goes on to clarify, restate, et cetera, we have a problem. How do we handle “multiple” questions within the same question?
 
I would propose that we adopt a rule that uses this as a standard: Put the question where the question is first asked, and let the rest of the sentence stand as its own thought. This makes the handling of the situation consistent from question to question and transcript to transcript.
 
…Where were you at the time? At home?
…Was he helpful to you? Do you recall?
…What about John? Was he there?
Happy punctuating!
Margie