Forgive me if this has been asked before (if it has been, I couldn't find it)

What punctuation, if any, should I use after "My question is..."?

For example,

My question is why is ice so slippery?

My question is, why is ice so slippery?

My question is: why is ice so slippery?

Which is the correct way to do it? (If it matters, MLA style please)

  • Why is ice so slippery? is not formal English, it should be Why ice is so slippery? – Khaled.K Sep 7 '14 at 7:38
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    @Khaled A Khunaifer The whole debate addressing 'What are the correct forms for quote and report, and possibly hybrid, structures?' is ongoing, and there is as yet no consensus. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 7 '14 at 8:52
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    @KhaledAKhunaifer You need inversion in questions. My question is, “Why is ice so slippery?” This is different from saying The question at hand is why ice is so slippery. – tchrist Sep 7 '14 at 12:48

Some style guides recommend refraining from using colons after verbs, so if there is going to a pedant reading your text, it might be better to say “My question is [ the following | thus | this ]: why is ice so slippery?”. That actually sounds better to me anyways, but there's nothing wrong with what you had.

No comma doesn't work because of the inverted subject-verb order.

The comma one is technically okay, but I personally rather dislike it. The Handbook of Good English calls it a sort of “soft colon” (and grants a capital letter to the question if you want further emphasis on the question), but no matter how many times I see it, it just looks wrong to my eyes since you don't write “My question is, not important” or “My question is, really a statement”. But I digress.

That said, you have a few other options that work too depending on your taste:

  • My question is( , ) “Why is ice so slippery?”
  • My question is why ice is so slippery.
  • I question why ice is so slippery.
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  • Can you please clarify? Are you saying that HGE licenses << My question is, why is ice so slippery? >> and << My question is, Why is ice so slippery? >>? And << My question is: why is ice so slippery? >> and << My question is: Why is ice so slippery? >>? (I've been trying to find someone who does!) – Edwin Ashworth Sep 7 '14 at 12:29
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    @EdwinAshworth Probably. I admit I reference HGE via another answer on here (that I can't seem to find now) that quoted it using the comma as such (and mentioning capitals). I would imagine if it allows a capital with a mere "soft colon" comma, that it would approve of the true colon + capital. But do us readers a favor and just do an indrect question or use quotation marks ;-) – user0721090601 Sep 7 '14 at 12:44
  • Found it; copied it. Thanks. Evil grin. But agree that your recommendations are sound. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 7 '14 at 14:05

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