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I find myself using the dual punctuation marks "?:" when I want to say "I have a question about the thing that follows". For example:

Is it possible for the following sentence to be translated into French?:
"Hello, nice to see you."

Is using "?:" incorrect? If so, what would be the correct way to do this? Which would take precedence: the colon, or the question mark?

  • 1
    It is not a dodgy grammatical construct, because it is not a grammatical construct at all. It's punctuation. – RegDwigнt Nov 12 '12 at 10:28
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    I don't think your example requires a question mark. A better example would be "Is it possible for the following sentence be translated in to French?" – Urbycoz Nov 12 '12 at 10:28
  • OK fair comments – MadMaardigan Nov 12 '12 at 10:33
  • It's not standard, but there isn't any standard punctuation for this. I've needed this punctuation at times. If you keep on using this, maybe it'll catch on, the way the interrobang—?! or !?—is doing. (Although I wouldn't recommend it in formal writing.) – Peter Shor Nov 12 '12 at 16:08
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Two such punctuation marks together are generally best avoided. You can instead insert a blank line to separate the question from the example, like this:

Is it possible for the following sentence to be translated into French?

"Hello, nice to see you."

Better still might be to write:

Is it possible for "Hello, nice to see you" to be translated into French?

  • I like the rewording you suggested at the end of your answer, but I also hope that we don't dodge the larger question by shuffling words around. Like the O.P., I too am curious about the way two standard punctuation rules like these are supposed to deconflict. – J.R. Nov 12 '12 at 10:54
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    J.R. Layout, as in my first suggestion, is a kind of punctuation. Even without the extra line, a colon seems to add nothing. – Barrie England Nov 12 '12 at 11:35
  • Would a colon in place of the question mark in your first suggestion be equally valid? (I'm not asking to be a smark aleck; I'm genuinely curious about this.) – J.R. Nov 12 '12 at 11:47
  • @J.R. I would say not. A question needs a question mark. It doesn't need a colon. – Barrie England Nov 12 '12 at 12:07

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