Is it proper to place a question mark after an em dash?

I have seen it both ways in books. Perhaps it is correct either way? Simply a matter of the author's style?

Example: "How do you know so—?"

  • What do you mean by both ways? What does the em dash represent in your sentence? Jun 28, 2017 at 12:38
  • In this case I would say it's a matter of style. In your example, the speaker has just been interrupted in the middle of their question.
    – Scott
    Jun 28, 2017 at 13:16
  • To my (American) eye, this seems an archaic construction, which might denote someone A) getting interrupted in the middle of a question, or perhaps B) expressing shock at some sudden event which occurred in the middle of their asking.
    – nollidge
    Jul 28, 2017 at 21:08

1 Answer 1


An em dash is often used to indicate that a speaker has been interrupted. A question mark is necessary to indicate that the speaker was asking a question. Therefore, the construction you quoted is created.

Do not use an em dash with a question mark unless it's for this purpose. (Beware that Tolkien's works use non-standard grammar regarding em dashes and question marks.)

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