For example, given the following sentence, is it proper to set the enclosed question in quotation marks?

The first question to ask is, “should quotation marks be used?”

Any additional comments about the structure of the example sentence above would be appreciated.

  • Yes. When the subject is a sentence, it is enclosed in quotation marks, whether it is a question or a statement. Compare: I thought, "He is crazy." vs. I thought that he was crazy. – Kris Nov 11 '13 at 5:20
  • meta: Suggesting migration to ELL. – Kris Nov 11 '13 at 5:21
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    The first question to ask is whether quotation marks should be used. -- No quotation marks here, but note the changes. – Kris Nov 11 '13 at 5:23

It isn't needed in this case.

Quotation marks are used when you're quoting somebody (in the direct speech of course. If you're using indirect, then you don't use quotation marks).
So if you were to say:

He asked me, "Are quotation marks needed?"

you would use them. :)

  • Why the downvotes? – mikhailcazi Nov 11 '13 at 7:12
  • See 'Kris', above. – WS2 Nov 11 '13 at 9:23
  • @WS2 Oh, I see, my answer comes off as saying that the framing of the original sentence is right, while it actually isn't. I'll edit it. Thanks :) – mikhailcazi Nov 11 '13 at 11:28
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    Even if you are not quoting someone, for an embedded statement in direct speech, you need the quotation marks; converted to indirect speech, you do not. So you answer is incorrect. – Kris Nov 11 '13 at 13:38
  • Sorry! :/ This is embarassing. I can't even delete the answer since it's been accepted. – mikhailcazi Nov 12 '13 at 11:10

There are direct questions, indirect questions, and embedded questions, and accepted practices vary between them.

  • Jim asked, “Should quotation marks be used?”

  • “Should quotation marks be used?” asked Jim.

  • Jim asked whether quotation marks should be used.

  • Jim’s question is, should question marks be used?

Note carefully the differing conventions of capitalization, quotation marks, and even question marks in all of those.

See also What is the correct punctuation for an indirect question?, Changing subject and verb positions in statements and questions, “I'm not sure what the right way is”, What kind of punctuation should I use to embed a question in another sentence?, and related questions linked to from those.

  • In your fourth example I would have used quotation marks: Jim's question is 'should question marks be used?' Otherwise I agree that the only one of the four that does not require them is the third. – WS2 Nov 11 '13 at 14:44
  • @WS2 No, that would be different. Then you would need a capital. – tchrist Nov 12 '13 at 0:51
  • Yes, I would have used a capital, and quotation marks! – WS2 Nov 12 '13 at 8:26

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