Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Cage match: Question mark vs. Exclamation mark.

In high school English class I was taught that where a question mark and exclamation mark both apply to the same utterance, that you go with the exclamation mark and pass on the question mark. I do not recall any explanation for this from Mister Eversoboring or whatever the teacher's name was, but like a good boy I have always obeyed.

A lot of people were not taught this, or more likely, don't remember such an obscure tidbit of advice. Some people throw in both as a cute couple?! Which is far too cutesy and certainly not to any convention and will just scare the reader away from trusting the author. Some others default to the question mark instead because their sheep psyche regards the question mark as a RULE and the explanation mark as an option. This is not useful in terms of helping a reader comprehend your text better.

I don't need to research the landscape of official conventions out there to feel confident in the solution:

A well-worded question is sufficiently evident as being a question. Blind rule adherence does not make it more obvious. The implied tone of voice though, offers much in clarifying more subtle  connotations. Thus the question mark demonstrates an inquisitive voice, and an explanation mark demonstrates a loud or commanding voice. This is all useful; the usage of these marks to connote voice. There can be little chance for overlap here.

However, in certain rare instances where the shouting of questions gets tricky in the realm of dialogue in prose, you always have two options where attribution can save the day:

Example one: "Where the hell did the Mayo go?" he shouted.

And two: "Where the hell did the mayo go!" he begged.

You might notice that the above example does not necessarily require
either punctuation. Frankly I find it hard to imagine a well-worded example which does.

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