Since this, how much more another[.|?]

I would have used a question mark to end that sentence; however, I've seen two different, recent authors end it with a period. Is this type of sentence a question or a statement?

I'm assuming that from the answer to this question, the punctuation flows simply, that there are no hidden rules for punctuation in this case.

Examples that prompted this question:

"Since this principle is true of the OT Scriptures written before the end of the ages has come, how much more is it true of the NT Scriptrues written in the period of the end of the ages in which we today and they who originally received it both live."
(George W. Knight III, "The Scriptures Were Written for Our Instruction," Journal of the Evanglical Theological Society 39, no. 1 [1996]: 12)

"Now if people normally take the validity of the communication process for granted in regard to daily human discourse, how much more plausible is the notion that the infinite, personal God can communicate literal truth verbally or propositionally."
(Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd ed. [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998], 20)

  • Can you give more surrounding text to that sentence? As it stands, it doesn't look right either way. – Mitch Apr 18 '12 at 18:27
  • @Mitch, done. I couldn't find the quote by the other author, but it was the same type of thing. – zpletan Apr 18 '12 at 18:33
  • It is much clearer now. But that sentence is mentally taxing to parse. – Mitch Apr 18 '12 at 18:36
  • @Mitch, it could be simplified, "Since this principle is true of the OT Scriptures, how much more is it true of the NT Scriptures." – zpletan Apr 18 '12 at 18:54
  • The example from the Journal of the Evanglical Theological Society looks wrong to me, or at least ugly. That is probably because it says how much more is it true instead of how much truer is it as it should be (and even then it is questionable): the adjective modified by how much (more) should come directly after this phrase, not after the verb. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Apr 19 '12 at 2:04

It's contextual, and in the context you gave, the lack of a question mark indicates that the author is asking a rhetorical question.

To further support this, here are links to style guides from several universities saying to use a period for a rhetorical question: Illinois, Arkansas, Lewis,Old Dominion.

The style guide I use suggests that this is poor grammar, but, if the author went to any of those universities he would have learned to punctuate this way.

  • So why wouldn't this author have used a question mark? I'm having trouble translating the remarks of Wikipedia's reference (www.whitesmoke.com/question-mark-usage) into the context of the more scholarly, formal quote above. – zpletan Apr 18 '12 at 18:57
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    Doesn't a rhetorical question still have a question mark? – Mitch Apr 18 '12 at 20:26
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    @zpletan: Christian/religious texts probably have a tendency to use grammar found in other Christian/religious texts, which in this case feels to me somewhat old-fashioned (although correct). I suspect authors have a tendency to absorb grammar from what they read. – Peter Shor Apr 18 '12 at 21:15
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    I must admit I normally expect a question mark after a rhetorical question (or maybe an exclamation mark), but I'm sure that's really just because I usually do see one. It doesn't bother me if it's missing. Anyway, the point is you've just faithfully reported on actual usage, and highlighted the fact that there are in fact conflicting authorities on this matter, so it is a little disappointing to see a downvote there. – FumbleFingers Apr 18 '12 at 22:17
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    I'd give you two upvotes if I could, because I feel cheated that mine has simply counterbalanced an unwarranted downvote. I've nothing against Shoe's or J.R.'s answers either (bizarrely, they both have a downvote too) - but yours was first and theirs don't really add anything much. I shall watch this page with interest. – FumbleFingers Apr 18 '12 at 22:32

I interpret the sentence as exclamatory rather than as a question. A simpler example would be:

  • How much more true are these words today than when they were written.

This could also be constructed as:

  • How much more true these words are today than when they were written.

According to the Cambridge Grammar Of The English Language (p920) the inversion seen in the first example above "is available as an option in exclamatives, though it is relatively infrequent and characteristic of a fairly literary style".

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    The use of "is it" in the original post certainly indicates a question. No amount of re-reading the question reconciles "How much more is it true" with a statement. – user20276 Apr 18 '12 at 20:34
  • This is the correct answer; it shouldn't be downvoted. To me, it sounds like old-fashioned grammar, but consider this quote from the 1890s: How large are your bones woven together! How big are your two feet, and how people look like ants when they stand near them! – Peter Shor Apr 18 '12 at 21:07
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    One, the use of the exclamation point in the original quote would make it similar to your example, but he used a . Two, you're citing a 130 year old text and trying to imply that it says something about a modern text that isn't making an exclamation. The tone of the author indicates formality, and, the use of an informal exclamation like that isn't at all in keeping with the tone of the statement. The author in the original statement wasn't being informal at all. – user20276 Apr 18 '12 at 21:32
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    @Nathan: Shakespeare sonnet 54: "O, how much more doth beauty beauteous seem // By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!" Definitely not informal, although it is an exclamation and also more like 400 years old. But as I said, it seems to me like a piece old-fashioned grammar which has survived among religious commentators. These inversions are not rhetorical questions, but done for emphasis. However, without more context I can't tell whether the OPs examples are intended to be rhetorical questions. – Peter Shor Apr 18 '12 at 23:50
  • Maybe you can upvote me too, since I have like 4 downvotes on my correct answer. – user20276 Apr 18 '12 at 23:53

'How' can be used as a non-question word meaning 'to a certain extent or degree' (the only reference for this usage I've found is the OED which is either off-line or behind a pay-wall).

How interesting the question is. ('the question is very interesting')

How curious. (not 'How curious?' but 'This is very curious.')

This is not a rhetorical question, it is a statement that the question is very interesting. The syntax is interesting because it is not a true variant on 'very' (to which it is very similar). You can't say 'The question is how interesting.'

This seems to be the usage intended by the authors in both quotes, that it is the case that 'it is indeed much more true of ...'. But then I would then note that it is preferred but not mandatory that the syntax should be 'how much more it is true of...'.

The usage sounds slightly stilted and 19th c. (like the usage of 'indeed') but is still used. Contrary to my feelings, there are quite a few uses of "how much more true" in both British and American English, which by inspection of those instances, show them as non-rhetorical statements, meaning 'it is that much more true'.

  • Both authors are representing American institutions, and you're citing a UK source. Wouldnt it be a stretch that an American publication would use phrasing that's only referenced in the UK authority? A citation from Cambridge would be more compelling. – user20276 Apr 19 '12 at 0:03
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    @NathanC.Tresch: The OED is pretty comprehensive, also noting both British, American, and other locality's usage, and is referenced in the US. The other online sites are not nearly so comprehensive nor are they so locale knowledgeable. – Mitch Apr 19 '12 at 0:56

This author seems to think that a period or a question mark can be used:

enter image description here

Conveniently, this comes from a secular "technical example," not a "religious text."

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    Your answer says that a period is correct; mine suggests that either a period or a question mark can be used. I was surprised to see such a benign answer criticized, how much more that I'm accused of plagiarism! – J.R. Apr 19 '12 at 1:02
  • (1) The term "rhetorical question" appears nowhere in my answer. (2) The term "question mark" appears nowhere in your answer. (3) The O.P. was asking if a period or question mark was correct ("[.|?]"). (4) At the time I posted, comments had been made that this question would be "easier to answer" with a non-religious text (which I provided). (5) You apparently missed the subtle humor in my comment; I didn't really think I was being accused of plagiarism per se, but I employed the how much more construct, ending it with an exclamation point vice period or question mark. – J.R. Apr 19 '12 at 9:50
  • Hmmmm... my comments appear quite odd, now that two other comments have been removed. (Anyway, if anyone is wondering, my two comments represent only half a dialog). – J.R. Apr 19 '12 at 11:05
  • I removed them because you were correct. :) – user20276 Apr 20 '12 at 21:07

From the context, it is possible to infer that it is a statement.

In contemporary writing, we might add an exclamation point at the end.

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    How is it possible to infer that it is a statement? Also, the writer of the example wrote in 1996, and the one I didn't quote wrote in 1998. – zpletan Apr 18 '12 at 20:10

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