I've seen the "how are you" questions on this forum, but mine is a bit different. I read this in the Readers Digest once:

Don't tell your friends about your indigestion. 'How are you' is a greeting; not a question.

So if it's a greeting, should it be
How are you!
How are you?
or just
How are you.

1 Answer 1


I wouldn't rely on the 'Reader's Digest' for information about English. How are you? is indubitably a question, and so requires a question mark. The fact that the speaker doesn't expect a detailed health bulletin in response is beside the point.

  • +1 because I agree, of course. But I think that "Readers' Digest" just cited the expression here, just thinking that punctuation wasn't necessary since everyone knows what it is, hence OP's confusion.
    – Irene
    Jan 2, 2012 at 8:45
  • The quote was actually one of those italicized quotes that appear at the end of every Readers Digest (RD) article. It was probably contributed by an RD reader. It was many years ago, so I don't even remember what punctuation they had used. Then again, couldn't 'how are you' be used solely with an exclamation mark imagining someone was shouting it to a friend? How are you!!!
    – Nav
    Jan 2, 2012 at 8:48
  • @Irene: Yes, could well be. I can see the point the RD comment was trying to make, but it didn't make it very well. Jan 2, 2012 at 8:52
  • @Nav: The voice intonation is normally that of a question when using this expression. I suppose that if you want to make a point of somebody being very happy or surprised upon meeting a friend (and convey this in writing), you could use different punctuation, such as the one you suggest. But it isn't the usual thing to do.
    – Irene
    Jan 2, 2012 at 8:55

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