I recently received a mark-down for the following phrase:

With this regard, will you please accept the Takeover agreement on this quote so that we can proceed with the validation process?

The quality evaluator (I work with a Customer Service Team) told me that the use of a question mark in this sentence is incorrect.

Is his evaluation correct, and why?

  • 3
    OP's sentence is a form of rhetorical question, which doesn't expect an answer as such - it simply expects compliance with a request. In fact, the words "will you" should really be discarded as well as the question mark. It's hard to be sure without the full context, but IMHO "With this regard" is almost certainly a clumsy phrasing which should also be discarded or reworded. – FumbleFingers Jan 9 '12 at 18:27
  • I can definitely say that "The quality evaluator (I work with a Customer Service Team) told me that the use of a question mark in this sentence is incorrect" should NOT have a question mark after it...a self-referential typo. – JeffSahol Jan 9 '12 at 18:35
  • I agree with FumbleFingers. Another round the difficulty is by saying 'We'd be grateful if you would accept the Takeover agreement . . .' – Barrie England Jan 9 '12 at 18:42

Your ‘quality evaluator’ (whatever that may be), is wrong. The short story is that all formulaically interrogative sentences in English always take a question mark. it doesn’t matter whether it is a rhetorical question, a polite request, or an honest inquiry that expects an answer.

In English, polite requests still use a question mark, even though you are not expecting a verbal response:

  • Will you step this way, please?
  • Could you please pass me the sugar?
  • Would you show me your ID, sir?
  • May I please have another?

Those are all interrogative sentences, not imperative ones. Corresponding imperative versions might perhaps be:

  • Step this way, please.
  • Please pass me the sugar.
  • Show me your ID, sir.
  • Give me another, if you please.

As you see, if you want to skip the question mark, you have to use an imperative not an interrogative.

However, some writers feel that when polite requests are nested in an if conditional, that they do not necessarily require the question mark:

  • If you would be so kind to step this way, Madame.

Other writers feel that writing that way is either wrong, or that it’s a bit pushy, so you might use the question mark anyway there:

  • If you would be so kind to step this way, Madame?

I’d guess that the version with the question mark is standard English, but that the one without it may not be.

  • A side question (I will start a new question if it is better). So "Would you show me your ID, sir" is interrogative because of syntax (the presence of the question mark) and is not imperative (even though pragmatically it is imperative)? – demongolem Feb 22 '13 at 18:44
  • The practice of notional rather than formulaic use of punctuation is quite well established. The choice of whether to use a question mark after a polite request looking like a question is just that: a choice. CGEL says as much, giving 'Why don't you try to get this report to me by tomorrow.' and other examples. If the quality evaluator is using a style guide recommending a full stop, "Your ‘quality evaluator’ (whatever that may be), is wrong." is at best misleading. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 16 '15 at 10:51

This is not a rhetorical question; it is a request.

The Chicago Manual of Style suggests that written requests formulated as questions do not require a question mark. (Not to suggest that the Chicago Manual of Style is the definitive authority, but it carries weight and the suggestion seems reasonable. Written requests without question marks do not, to my eyes at least, appear 'wrong' and thus distract attention from the subject matter.)

Note to tchrist: Experience persuades me to avoid absolute terms such as all, always and never when describing language.


Considering what we can see of the context, this should be a rhetorical question as @FumbleFingers commented. You are telling them to accept the agreement in order to continue.

The question mark implies that the question is not rhetorical, and that you think the answer could be "no", and you are waiting for their reply. It is valid English but not valid CustomerServicese.

  • Wait, when you write a rhetorical question you don't put a question mark? I do. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Jan 9 '12 at 18:56

Grammatically, the sentence is a question (however rhetorical) and thus requires a question mark.

Stylistically, the sentence may have some serious problems unless it reflects conventions and jargon specific to (and understood by) the OP's audience.

"With this regard, will you please accept the Takeover agreement on this >quote so that we can proceed with the validation process?"

I think this means something like: "Considering (what was said in the previous sentence), will you please accept (what we have offered) on (what you have offered) so that we can (get on with doing whatever it is that we're mutually trying to accomplish)?

If that is not what the OP meant, this sentence may need some serious reworking. If that is (more or less) what the OP meant, the sentence could still strongly benefit from whatever clarification and simplification can be managed within the situation and context.

Also - sorry to hit an OP when he's down, but - typographically, "takeover" should not be capitalized unless "Takeover Agreement" in this context is a proper noun, in which case both words should be capitalized.

  • The question merely asks about the need for the question mark. tchrist has already voiced the opinion you give here. I believe it's a minority one nowadays. Here is the opposite opinion, given at Writing English: Use a period at the end of a polite request, which is worded as a question, instead of a question mark. Will you please use the correct postage for that letter. They also recommend: Use a question mark at the end of a sentence, which is intended to be a question, but worded as a statement. They paid $10,000 for this wreck? – Edwin Ashworth Mar 16 '15 at 10:34

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