How should sentences that end with both a colon and a question mark be formed? Two examples are below, both questions, but one in which the colon presents a piece of information and the other in which it begins a list.

Is this the one you meant?: http://blah.com/somebody/blog/article/foobarbaz.gif


Do you have any of these symptoms?:
  •  Headache
  •  Nausea
  •  Dizziness

Obviously a question-mark—colon combination is no good, and at best, looks odd. Putting the question mark after the item(s) is no good either. Do they have to be rewritten in a more pointed way such as below or is there another option?

Is the one in the following picture the one you meant?



Do you have any of the symptoms below?

  •  Headache
  •  Nausea
  •  Dizziness


The Chicago Manual of Style notes:

Many writers assume—wrongly—that a colon is always needed before a series or a list. [Section 6.65]

So dispense with the colon entirely:

Is this the one you meant?


Is this the one you meant: http://blah.com/somebody/blog/article/foobarbaz.gif ?


Do you have any of the symptoms below?

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • I like the note about colon usage in terms of lists, but I don’t think it applies to the first case (introduction of a specific piece of related information). I already make a habit of putting URLs on a separate, indented line. – Synetech Dec 14 '11 at 20:43
  • I agree that it's clearer that way. I suggested the one-line alternative as perhaps the least bad way if space was tight. – Gnawme Dec 14 '11 at 20:46

Or, you could simply do this.

Did you mean http://blah.com/somebody/blog/article/foobarbaz.gif?

  • I thought of that but the question mark is displaced by a significant amount, especially with a longer URL. And it does not address a list. Did you mean this http://foobar.baz/blah/someone/site/search?query=something&width=1024&height=768;q=5&otherstuff=somethingelse;flashvars=one%20other%25thing%226? – Synetech Jan 8 '12 at 2:07
  • It would go like this: Did you mean a, b or c, substituting in the URLs. This would be grammatically correct. So you could still structure the sentence the same way. – ncmathsadist Jan 8 '12 at 3:44
  • 1
    That’s fine with really short things, but it would be incredibly unwieldy and illegible with long things like URLs, but even with shorter things like words or phrases. – Synetech Jan 8 '12 at 6:44

I would not recommend using "Do you have any of the symptoms below?" It is awkward. There is nothing wrong with using a question mark followed by a colon. You might have just been looking at it for too long. Everything starts to look a little funny if you stare at it long enough.


Writers are typically narcissistic and not amenable to constructive criticism, but speaking from the stance of an English major and experienced Editor, it is NOT okay to use both a question mark and semi-colon to end a passage.

  • 1
    That aligns with what this website says: A question mark or exclamation point is sufficient for separation. Do not also use a colon. – J.R. Dec 25 '15 at 12:33

Not one of my many books addresses it, but I have seen examples on the Internet (by self-proclaimed experts) that seem to settle the matter.

In short, when two punctuation marks are both appropriate, use the one that makes the sentence more clear:

She yelled, "Duck!" and we hit the ground.

The exclamation point replaced the comma, and the meaning is better served. Here is another case:

The report claimed that the employees "...engaged in industrial sabotage..." but I couldn't confirm it.

Again, the lost comma is not missed.

On the question of the colon and the question mark together, I have seen the same recommendation. Which of them is more essential to the meaning? Use that one.

But I can't find definitive answers in any "official" books on the matter.

protected by Andrew Leach Dec 8 '15 at 7:42

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