I know I bitched about this in ru stupid, but it seems to have become far more common in the last 6 months or so.

Some people appear to have decided that it's no longer cool to end an interrogative sentence (that is, a question) with what we commonly refer to as a "question mark."

Just to refresh your memory, they look like this: ?

Sure, I know what you're thinking. "Why does it matter. Isn't readily obvious that someone is asking a question when they begin a sentence with a word such as who, why, what, where, how, when, and so on."

Well, you're wrong on multiple counts. First, you forgot your damned questions marks, you moron! Second, I bet that if you try, you'll find that's it's not difficult to construct a sentence beginning with one of those "question words" that is, in fact, not a question.

How to do that is left as an exercise to the reader. (I used to hate it when pretentious textbooks said that.)

Finally, this becomes a real problem when reading the voluminous amount of test text I read on a daily basis--often e-mail and on-line discussions. Why? Because it completely destroys the scanability of the text. It's common for me to scan messages quickly to see if there are any questions that I must address. If not, I may decide to give it my attention when I'm less busy.

More than a few times I've had someone ask my me why I've been ignoring their questions, only to go back and find not a single question mark in their original message.

Where's the electronic cluestick when you need to beat someone?

Posted by jzawodn at February 11, 2004 11:15 AM

Reader Comments
# jr said:

Who ever does these sorts of acts is merely expressing their incompetence in language. What annoys me the most is that they seem very comfortable with it. Where others take the time to construct carefully thought out dialog, they simply type with monkey like precision. When I see such things, I too tend to become irratible. Why, I think that that sort of action should be delt with harshly.

Dang, did I just mess up something?

on February 11, 2004 11:42 AM
# Manish Jethani said:

I so much agree with you, but you have to bear with the poor quality of writing on the Web. That's a reality.

on February 11, 2004 12:17 PM
# b said:

"Second, I bet that if you try, you'll find that's it's difficult to construct a sentence beginning with one of those "question words" that is, in fact, not a question."

you sure make it hard to agree with your point.

on February 11, 2004 12:19 PM
# saberworks said:

Does poor spelling bother you as much? I read a lot of "test" each day as well. I'm not really serious, but I've seen so many times where people harp on others for bad spelling/grammar/whatever and in the process, make the same mistakes they are harping on people about. For example, I lost track of the number of times I have seen people insulting others for having bad speling and horrible grammer.

on February 11, 2004 12:34 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Spelling does, indeed, bother me.

I'm always grateful when folks point out my spelling problems. I spell check my posts (unless I'm really rushed), but the sad fact is that the spell checker only catches words it has never seen. :-(

I've fixed the typo, thanks.

on February 11, 2004 12:39 PM
# Xn said:

one more typo: "More than a few times I've had someone ask my why I've been ignoring their questions, only to go back and find not a single question mark in their original message."

on February 11, 2004 12:47 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Heh. Makes me wonder if I need some sort of collaborative editing system to work around my lack of spelling...

on February 11, 2004 12:49 PM
# gabe said:

Isn't that what we commentators are?

Though I've not experienced (that I know of) this phenomenon of interrogative sentences ending with a period, I have experienced more than my share of the "ur" phenomenon. It irritates me to no end. Every time I see that used, anywhere, I am forced to harass the individual who used it. Maybe if they are antagonized for using that "interweb language" more often they'll start to feel like the fools they are and just stop.

I don't care how much time you think you're saving. All you have to do is type "yo" before the "ur." Is it so hard?

(Don't get me started on your/you're.)

on February 11, 2004 01:20 PM
# Dill said:

> Sure, I know what you're thinking. "Why does it matter.


on February 11, 2004 01:42 PM
# chad said:

I'm amazed that people know the difference between "your" and "you're", "their", "there", and "they're", but use "your" or "their" for every instance.

What bothers me the most is the fact that my *mom* uses them. It is fine for me to make fun of my coworkers that do these things, but how can I tell my mom that the word is "bye" not "by"?

Once that is accomplished, the next step is teaching her that the apostrophe key exists for a reason.

Don't get me started on people that don't know what the words "tilde", "caret", "ampersand", or "asterisk" mean. Also the difference between forward slash and back slash, back tick and apostrophe, square brackets and curly brackets, etc.


on February 11, 2004 01:45 PM
# rr said:

I do it all the time? Usually by the time I,ve gotten to the end of typing out the question; I!m already composing the next sentence and have forgotten that I was typing a question: It"s one of the most common typo,s .. excuse me, typographical errors :: I make'

I find your skimming technique odd, though now I know how to seed my Zawodny Query Optimizer (tm) function. Thanks.

on February 11, 2004 02:38 PM
# milbertus said:

"How to do that is left as an exercise to the reader. (I used to hate it when pretentious textbooks said that.)"

Didn't you just give us a nice example of that? ;)

on February 11, 2004 02:44 PM
# Gerry said:

It's sad when people are so lazy they have to rely on spellcheckers...

on February 11, 2004 03:00 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

And speed-dial too, right?

on February 11, 2004 03:06 PM
# Nicholas said:

Dropping the question mark can add a certain amount of deadpan coolness.

Jay McInerney is one writer who frequently drops question marks in his novels.

on February 11, 2004 03:53 PM
# Menchi said:

Why does dropping the question mark add "coolness". Doesn't it just look stupid.

on February 11, 2004 05:11 PM
# david said:

You could just take that question mark at the end of you post and beat the crap out of people who don't use question marks when they're asking questions.

Its so big... :)

on February 11, 2004 05:24 PM
# Tricia said:

WHO IS THIS ARROGANT JEREMY ZAWODNY? So you assume people who do shortcuts in spelling or forget punctuations are dumb or stupid? Well, I personally think you are STUPID to generalize. A lot of people do shortcuts in SMS messaging. You sure do have an OVERBLOWN EGO!

Zawondy posts:

Dan thinks it is evolution. To me it's stupidity, laziness, and apathy. I have to respectfully disagree. Or maybe I'm just being stubborn.

For whatever reason, whenever I get e-mail from someone who:Writes "ur" instead of "you are" or "ru" instead of "are you".Ends every sentence with a period, even when some of them are clearly questions.Omits apostrophes--like saying "I dont get it" instead of "I don't get it".Doesn't use the shift key AT ALL and writes in all lower-case.

I automatically assume that he or she is a little too dumb, a little too "pre-teen in a sex chartroom", a little too hip, a little too... annoying.

I relax my standards a bit for IM conversations, but even then overuse will get on my nerves pretty fast.

on February 11, 2004 07:40 PM
# Guido said:

¿Maybe starting questions with an inverted question mark would be easier. Just a suggestion. Some languages use both. ¿Don't they.

on February 11, 2004 11:51 PM
# Fred said:

Huh? I don't get it. Or do I.
wait... Or do I?

on February 12, 2004 06:27 AM
# Robert S. said:

Similarly, Jeremy, I've encountered a rash of people lately who apparently believe a rhetorical question doesn't rate a question mark. How'd they conclude that was legit?

At the risk of sounding elitist, most of the folks dropping their question marks aren't Jay McInerney; neither are most of the folks dropping their apostrophes William Faulkner. (Speaking figuratively, of course.)

Grammar does evolve, and we will eventually have to make some concession in areas of grammar we hold dear (realizing that that idea won’t compute for some). Nonetheless, there are good reasons to strive for maintaining some standards, like use of the question mark, for precisely the practical reasons Jeremy describes.

on February 12, 2004 07:01 AM
# Peter Caputa IV said:

I was lambasted recently because of a comment I made that had a question without= a question mark; It was actually: pointed out - to discredit my statements and question* I promise to make a better effort! at proper punctuation in the future?

It is quite annoying, ha.

on February 12, 2004 08:07 AM
# Chris Shiflett said:

I've seen many business managers who do exactly the opposite; they add question marks when it's not relevant. For example, when attempting to introduce me to a problem they are experiencing, they state the problem as a question:

"When I click the link, I don't get the email?"

I usually ignore it, since I know my humor would be lost if I were to make fun of their question (this may be a bad example, since I guess that could be a question, but it is usually obvious that it is not).

on February 12, 2004 09:12 AM
# Aristotle Pagaltzis said:

I feel a rant coming on..

I'm not sure if Tricia's comment is meant seriously or not. Am I supposed to laugh at her fine parody or shake my head in disgust? Whatever the case..

People seem to have lost any understanding for the concepts of courtesy and respect. We have become a society of egotists who don't stop to think about their actions. You do not have a right to someone's attention, whether you want to talk to them or not. "u", "ur", "ru", etc make a message significantly harder to read. Someone who uses these abbreviations this can't be very interested in their message being read and understood. Why else would they be discourage readers by being thoughtless and disrespectful of them?

On the other hand, saving two or three letters on words that were short to begin with seems to be of the essence. Obviously, such people are interested in efficiency in writing because have a lot of talking to get done. Why then, if it is more important for someone to talk than it is to be heard, should I waste my time reading their banter? It has already fulfilled its purpose the instant they wrote it, long before I was even made aware of its existence.

I can't help but be reminded of the old adage that wise men talk when they have something to say, while fools talk when they have to say something.

Don't insult your readers if you want them to hear you out. Think of others, instead of being too busy to stop just a second to consider how your actions will be received. Just spend a moment outside MTV attention deficit mode for once.

on February 12, 2004 05:16 PM
# Gideon S. said:

The biggest online irritant is loose versus lose. How hard is it? I find it unbelievable the number of people who don't seem to know the difference. It would be one thing if it was a typo but to consistently spell lose as loose is sheer idiocy. Not really sure why it bugs me so much but there you go (there I go ending a sentence with a preposition).

on February 12, 2004 07:03 PM
# Robert S. said:

Actually, Gideon, "go" is a verb! Sorry, couldn't resist.

Also, the idea that you can't end a sentence with a preposition is a grammar myth:


on February 13, 2004 09:55 AM
# Daniel Goldman said:

For requests, it often makes a sentence more friendly if ? is omitted.

The question mark gives a demanding tone.

on February 16, 2004 01:51 AM
# charlotte said:

the band rocks and so do the people playing the music!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

on October 6, 2004 04:17 PM
# Bashful said:

I'm editing a presentation for my boss. She's explaining a concept to a professional (peer) audience. Her first PPT slide asks the question, What is blah blah, but has no question mark. I realize she is not asking the question of her audience; she's staging her introduction to her material, but, like you, it bothers me to see a question without a question mark. Does the fact that this is a heading and does not expect an answer change your feeling on the need for the question mark?

on January 31, 2008 08:30 AM
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