If you have two questions, one embedded in the other, should there be a single, final question mark covering both the main question and the nested one, or one for each?

Here is an example:

A) Does anyone know the answer (or can anyone explain?) if there should be one or two question marks in this sentence?

Here is another example just to clarify:

B) Does anyone know the answer (or does anyone not know?)?

I am mainly concerned with the embedded question coming at the end of sentence like this: ...(...?)?

That looks really odd to me. It doesn't seem right; however, I feel that it looks fine if I have the nested question in the middle of the sentence, i.e. of the form:

C) Does anyone know the answer (or does anyone not know?) to this question?

The punctuation in C looks correct to me, if I take the first question mark out then it looks looks wrong, but it seems that B and C are exactly, but for the position of the parentheses, the equivalent of each other.

P.S. One last point, are single and double quotation marks considered to be parentheses?

  • 2
    It appears that your example of question (and question mark) doubling got edited out of the question head. I recommend that you add an example to the body of your question, setting it off as a block quote/highlighted text (by putting it in its own paragraph and preceding it with an angle bracket) so readers can see precisely what you have in mind.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 9:10
  • 'Does anyone understand what happens when we have double Question Marks (or does no-one know?)' is very different from 'Aren't you concerned about her Am I bovvered? attitude?' Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 10:20
  • I'm going chop, mutilate, hack into, and cull this question. (Is that OK?) The question has lost focus, which is a shame because I'm sure that in one of those writing style manuals that people go on about, there are clear guidelines.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 7:28
  • Ah, that looks so much better! :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 7:43
  • @Mari-Lou A If that's the question, I think it's a duplicate of Where does the question mark go — inside or outside the parentheses? Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 10:12

2 Answers 2


This is a matter of style, so consult your style guide, either the one you've adopted or the one thrust upon you. I prefer The Chicago Manual of Style, which, in its 16th edition recommends that when two question marks collide, only one remains in the text. Section 6.120 has the following examples:

Who starred opposite Richard Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Who wrote “Are You a Doctor?”
Where were you when you asked, “Why so blue?”

  • 1
    I'm on my phone away from uni, so I can't check for myself; but does CMS not italicise the Virginia Woolf title in their example? That seems most unlike them. And presuming they do, do they italicise the question mark as well (I would assume yes, since they get rid of the non-quote one in the other examples)? Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 8:49
  • It's unlike them, but, alas, it's like me. Which is to say that the copy fault is mine, and which I've fixed. Thank you. The entire title, which, of course, includes the question mark, is italicized. I'm reading the online version, and I couldn't distinguish italic and roman type question marks, but a look at the html source is dispositive.
    – deadrat
    Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 10:15
  • This aspect of double punctuation was addressed at double punctuation marks: one inside parenthesis {/quotes} and one outside. / As Sven implies, as we have been left with no indication of the precise construction/s OP has in mind, it might be better to wait before choosing to address one possibility. Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 10:27
  • @EdwinAshworth does my edit help to clarify? This is how I interpreted the OP's question.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 7:45

The original unedited title of the question had a question in an aside.

We would encounter such a need only in text that purports to capture dialog, where the speaker interrupts himself.

Agent 99 has found out that a CHAOS agent plans to derail a passenger train. Can you tell me — you are that CHAOS agent, aren't you? — which train that will be?

In expository prose, one can avoid changing the train of thought mid-sentence.


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