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I have read the various postings here about how and how not to use semicolons, but I've not seen and answer anything about how to deal with end of the sentence punctuation with sentence-statement combination. Here's my current example.

Did you send the revised report; I have not seen it.

I believe this is a correct usage of a semicolon, but I'm wondering whether there should be a question mark at the end.

I suppose I could reword to I have not seen the revised report; did you send it?, but that just sidesteps the question.

  • 2
    If I was writing that I would put a question mark after report and then start a new sentence. – Kate Bunting Jul 15 at 7:44
  • As a statement it could be: You must not have sent the revised report; I have not seen it. As a question, as others have commented and answered, the punctuation of the question mark more or less demands that it be two separate sentences. Unless referring to a sentence as a sentence in a series of list items (in which case it would be set off stylistically in some way, such as with italics), you cannot follow a question mark with a semicolon. And, even if that were the context, it would still be two separate set off sentences. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Jul 15 at 14:22
  • who says question marks must be "sentence terminal"? see english.stackexchange.com/questions/349297/… – green_ideas Nov 14 at 16:42
  • Possible duplicate of Question mark followed by a comma or semi colon in a list – green_ideas Nov 14 at 16:52
  • As per the answer to the suggested duplicate, the question mark overrides the semicolon in importance, thus the latter is discarded – green_ideas Nov 14 at 17:05
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My two answers would be:

1) Did you send the revised report? I have not seen it.

2) Have you sent the revised report? I have not seen it. (I would keep the same tense for both the sentences) (*)

(*) way preferred imo :-)

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If and only if the second phrase has the raising tone of a question should it be followed by a question mark. The first phrase no doubt has all qualities of a question. In that case, if you cling to the semicolon, I'd use two question marks at the end.

Have you sent the revised report; I have not seen it??

Alternatively, if there's a different intonation, this might be a good use for the interobang

Have you sent the report; I have not seen it?!

You are rather free in your choice, if it's not in any formal context. If it is work related mail, then it depends on expectations. I'd expect that too many questions and other marks could look passive agressive. However, I'm in no position to decide whether that's positive or not. It would be recommend to rephrase the sentence as an honest request for help, if in doubt.

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Two commonsense guidelines from The Chicago Manual of Style, sixteenth edition (2010) may be heplful here. First, with regard to where a question mark goes in a sentence containing an interrogative expression:

6.67 Question mark within a sentence. A question mark is used to mark the end of a direct question within a sentence. ...

[Example:] Is it worth the risk? he wondered.

Second, with regard to the relative weight of the question mark and the period (which is itself a stronger punctuation mark than a semicolon):

6.118 Periods with question marks or explanation points. A period (aside from an abbreviating period [such as the one in etc. or Co.]; see 6.117) never accompanies a question mark or an exclamation point. The latter two marks, being stronger, take precedence over the period. ...

[Example:] Their first question was a hard one: "Who is willing to trade oil for water?"

[Example:] What did she mean when she said, "The foot now wears a different shoe"?

Given that (according to Chicago 6.118) a question mark is a stronger punctuation mark than a period, and that (by general agreement) a period is a stronger punctuation mark than a semicolon, and given that (according to Chicago 6.118) a question mark should always stand alone in a situation where both a question mark and a period might have some claim to appear, it follows that a question mark should always stand alone in a situation where both a question mark and a semicolon might have some claim to appear—as in the sentence

Did you send the revised report[; or ?] I have not seen it.

The question embedded in this sentence ends after the word report; so by Chicago 6.67, a question mark should appear there:

Did you send the revised report? I have not seen it.

Because the following "I" is capitalized, the resulting punctuation looks like two separate sentences—which they effectively are. But suppose that the original sentence had been this:

Did you send the revised report[; or ?] our boss has not seen it.

Here, again, the question mark should displace the semicolon that might otherwise have appeared after report, leaving us for the moment with this:

Did you send the revised report? our boss has not seen it.

But the remainder of the sentence after the question mark is so thoroughly separable from the interrogative part of the sentence that it seems counterproductive to leave the "our" in all lowercase letters. To avoid needlessly halting the reader to ponder whether the lowercase o is simply a typo or reflects some stylistic fancy of the author's, it is better for the writer to accept that the question mark has completely stopped the original sentence in its tracks and to pick up on the next thought in a new sentence:

Did you send the revised report? Our boss has not seen it.

  • or you could have marked the Q as a duplicate – green_ideas Nov 15 at 9:09
  • @green_ideas: If I had thought it was a duplicate, I would have done as you suggest. But that question is specifically concerned with a situation in which multiple questions (and their punctuation) appear in a series in a single sentence, whereas this question is about a question that appears as the first half of a sentence in which the second half follows up on the question asked in the first half. To me, that's a different case—and one that I chose to answer on its own terms. – Sven Yargs Nov 15 at 16:47

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