I often wonder if I should use question marks in different situations. This occurs with me when a sentence starts out as a question, but after a comma turns into just a "normal sentence". The situation this time is as follows; "Who did it, you might ask(?)".


I'd be inclined to write it, as an instance of indirect, generic speech, and not a direct quote, as:

Who did it? you might ask.

If you use quotation marks, the question mark definitely goes inside, as it marks what you're quoting as a question:

"Who did it?" you might ask.

The question mark goes outside when what you're quoting isn't a question, but your statement about it is:

Who wrote "Parting is such sweet sorrow"?

  • (This responds to another comment that has now disappeared.) I'd write, > "Who did it? you might ask", the detective said. < BTW in U.S. usage, the comma would always go to the left of the closing quote, as would a period; U.K. usage is for them to go to the right of the closing quote. I'm from the U.S. but, as someone who writes instructions for software, I use quotes frequently to delimit what someone should actually type, or exactly what a label or button reads, so I put a closing comma or period between quotes only if it's really part of the text to be entered or displayed. – Green Grasso Holm Mar 8 '18 at 19:22
  • I agree with the second two examples, but putting a quotation mark in the middle of a sentence without delimiting it with quotation marks or parentheses would be something that I would correct as a copy editor. – ohwilleke Mar 8 '18 at 19:52
  • 1.You may ask: "What does it mean?" , 2."What does it mean?" you may ask? Which one is correct? – AmirhoseinRiazi Aug 10 '18 at 15:00
  • @AmirhoseinRiazi, both are about right, but with comments. Re 1, one would normally put a comma instead of a colon after "ask". A colon is more dramatic, and would be used to create an effect. A comma is the ordinary punctuation here. Re 2, you should have a period, not a question mark, after "ask". It occurred to me that you may have placed a question mark there because it was the end of your question consisting of your entire note up to that point, but I wanted to make sure you knew that example 2, on its own, should have a period after "ask". – Green Grasso Holm Aug 16 '18 at 15:57

This is just an unfortunate detail of English grammar. Question marks and exclamation points wait until the end of the sentence in modern English, even if they don't really belong there.

In this particular case you could try something like

"Who did it?" you might ask.

but this approach is harder to to map onto other cases

How long have you been here, if I may ask?

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