1. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Where's the question (mark) ?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by OurJud, Aug 7, 2009.

    I can't think of other example just now, although I have come across similar ones, but one thing I always struggle with is the placement of the question mark in the following type of sentence:

    That's not the greatest example, I know, but I always want to put a question mark after 'how can I put it', but then the word 'crap' would have to start with a capital and it just looks wrong

    I know there's easier and better ways to get across what the sentence is trying to say, but I've come across instances when this is really how I want to say it.
     
  2. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ive been corrected on that as well.
    I dont like having to start a new sentence just to put a question mark on the end of a sentence, but I think that if it is a question it needs a question mark for proper punctuation.:(
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Depending on who you read, you don't need to end the sentence because you use a question mark. I only recall reading it in 19-early20th century fiction, but they will use them at the end of a phrase as appropriate, but not necessariyl end the sentence there.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you can do it like this:

    The film is (how can I put it?) crap.

    or like this:

    The film is--how can I put it?--crap.
     
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  5. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    nice, thanx mamma!;)
     
  6. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks, mamma. I think the bracket option works really well.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you're welcome... but those are not 'brackets' [ ] ... they're parentheses ( )... ;-)
     
  8. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    so cute, that's my mamma!:)
     
  9. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mammamaia, I was always taught by my english teacher that parenthesis are only supposed to be used when what's in them is unrelated to the sentence or paragraph it's in.
     
  10. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    I googled a few quick sites, and couldn't find that rule. It appeared parenthesis are for understated interruptions, things related but of lesser importance. It would seem to me unrelated things should be omitted.

    When trying to imagine something in the parenthesis being unrelated, I'm picturing a sentence like:

    The classic novels of the period were (I like broccoli!) fantastic.

    I'm sure that's not what you meant. ;)

    To the OP, if you're using this for dialogue, I'd go with mammamaia's second version.

    If you're doing a review of the film, I'd omit the lesser phrase, and simply say: The film is crap. Then I'd elaborate on why.

    Charlie

    Edit:

    As an additional thought, if it's in dialogue, you could use ellipses or break it up.

    "The film is... how should I put this?" He paused, his voice falling to a whisper. "It's crap."
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    good stuff, charlie!... i heartily concur... only prob i see with it is that space after the ellipsis that shouldn't be there...

    hugs, m
     
  12. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Thanks!

    I just learned something. That's always a good thing. :D
     
  13. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    "How can I put this" isn't really a question. It's more of a stalling phrase.

    This is, how can I put this. . . crap.
    I mean, who, exactly, are you asking? It's rhetorical.


    Incidentally, I have just read the best sentence ever:
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    rhetorical questions are still questions...

    if you hadn't added the '...crap' it would be a question that called for a '?'...

    sorry, i don't get it... why would such a poorly/confusingly-formed sentence be 'the best'?

    is liking broccoli supposed to be suggesting something positive/negative about the ability of that person to judge the quality of the novels?

    if so, i don't see the relevance... i happen to love broccoli and eat it several times a week, as it's one of the most delicious and healthy foods to be found... i'm also a pretty good judge of writing quality, having been a highly paid writing consultant and being a writing mentor for the past several decades since... but i don't see any connection between the two...

    can you please unconfuse me? ;-)

    love and hugs, maia
     
  15. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    He was being ironic, I believe.
     
  16. cafetiere
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    cafetiere New Member

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    When I read the thread starter I thought, it depends whether you mean to say the film was crap, and I'd put the question mark here if so:

    The film is, how can I put it?, crap.

    or whether you are questioning whether the film was crap (it would be said in a questioning tone of voice), and I'd put the question mark here if that was meant instead:

    The film is, how can I put it, crap?
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    mark in the middle, with comma after it is incorrect to the max, sorry to say... only way i can see to make sense of that is one of the following:

    The film is (how can I put it?) crap.

    The film is--how can I put it?--crap.
     
  18. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    My sense of humor seems to have confused people.

    I responded to this quote:

    I thought, "That's odd...putting something in a sentence, in parenthesis, that's unrelated to the sentence?"

    So I came up with this...

    It was my comical way of saying that, at least taken literally as stated, the English teacher's supposed instructions were not quite correct, as demonstrated by that very silly sentence.

    Exactly. This is the point, and the source of the intended humor. If the quote in the parenthesis is not related to the sentence, no one will see the relevance. It will sound just plain silly.

    What's in the parenthesis certainly should be at least somewhat (spaghetti is really swirly!) related to the sentence, or it could be a very silly sentence, like this one.

    Unfortunately, jokes are never as good when you have to explain them. Good grief!

    Charlie

    PS. Regarding the film: Be direct. You know how to put it. You said it very succinctly.

    The film is crap.

    No need to ask how you can put it. :)

    Edit: Or, you could revise it for political correctness:

    The film is great!

    You'd be lying, but you'd make the film maker so happy.

    (Just kidding.)
     
  19. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, if you're British, they are brackets, sorry!
     
  20. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    (Please forgive the following OT digression...)

    There are a number of words that are different between the U.S. and Britain, which can sometimes result in confusion.

    I'm in the US. I have a service through the phone company, one of those many little extra services the phone companies provide, its purpose is to reduce unwanted phone solicitors. Usually, phone solicitors have call-ID block to prevent their number from showing up on caller ID. This service requires anyone with call ID block to record their name--on my end, we'll get a different sounding ring and be able to hear the name of the caller and decide if we want to accept the call.

    The problem occurred when someone in our U.K. office called my home. The phones there are caller-ID blocked (I'm not even sure if international calls can be seen on caller ID.)

    Well, the phone company message says, "Please say your name and press the pound key at the tone." The only problem is, in the United States, the pound symbol is #, on the phone pad after the 0. In the U.K., the pound symbol is a symbol used for money and # has a different name. So the guy couldn't get through--he insisted, "I don't have a pound key!" So he just hung up.

    It took quite a long conversation the next day before we figured out that the symbol on his keypad had a different name!

    That little story may be worth me re-writing and sending in to Reader's Digest for their little joke-story pages.

    Charlie
     
  21. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's the 'hash' key, not the 'pound'!
    Thanks Charlie!
    I really like the differences in the languages, actually--I don't know if being bi-lingual has anything to do with it. But the query came from someone in the UK and I don't like it when Americans 'correct' our legitimate usage. No offence.
     
  22. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    The technical name for it is, "Tic Tac Toe Board." ;)

    Charlie

    PS. In the United States, hash is served with eggs.

    Interestingly, in the United States, although you can't buy anything for a pound, you can pound on the keyboard that weighs a pound and then, pound the pound key...while searching the internet for a dog pound.

    Also, in the United States, people are happy when they lose 5 pounds. In Great Britain, people are happy when they gain 5 pounds. ;)

    You can look up the Pounds to Kilograms conversion, and the Pounds to Dollars conversion, but I have yet to find a Dollars to Kilograms conversion rate. May be if I convert Dollars to Pounds, then convert Pounds to Kilograms, I'll find out how much my weight is worth. ;)
     
  23. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    I still don't think that it is a question.

    "How can I put this" isn't TRULY asking anything of anyone, it's just verbal indication that one is considering.
    In fact, I think that if it was replaced with "I wonder how I can put this," it would be even more accurate.

    Since it is 'asking' something, it is, in the most strict sense, a question, but honestly; it's not really asking anything.
    In the same way that you can put a question mark at the end of a statement in order to make a question (You're looking at my photos, now?) you can just put a comma or ellipsis and avoid the question mark altogether.

    Leastways, I think so. I can't see it being a big issue.
     
  24. Fiel
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    Fiel Member

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    Assuming it's a dialog, it should be like this.

    "The film is, how can I put it... crap?"

    Or

    "The film is, how should I put it... crap?"

    Or

    "The film is, how should I put it..." He paused, pondering. "Crap?"

    But if it's me, I would put it like this.

    "The film? Well, how should I put it..." He paused, pondering. "Crap?"

    I don't agree on using parentheses (or bracket), since it will most likely confuse the reader, in my opinion.
    Hope this helps. :D
     
  25. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    I doubt the question mark after "crap" is what the author intended.

    Whether or not you consider "how should I put this" a genuine question or something one is pondering (which is still a question, albeit rhetorical) "crap" is the conclusion, not a question.

    Otherwise your suggestion resembled my earlier one:

    "The film is...how should I put this?" He paused, his voice falling to a whisper. "It's crap."

    Or here's another thought, since there are so many different ideas:

    It's grammatically impossible to say that! Please revise.

    Like the old joke, when calling someone for directions.

    "Sorry, you can't get here from there!" ;)

    Charlie
     

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