Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A question about questions

What's up with authors not using question marks anymore?

I noticed it particularly in J.R. Ward's last couple of books. Now don't get me wrong, I think she's an awesome writer. I adore her books, every one. But in places where I learned to always use a question mark, she doesn't.

I already returned her two latest to the library, so I don't have exact quotes in front of me, but here's an example made up by me:

"But things don't always go according to plan, do they."

My seventh grade English teacher, Mrs. Williams, taught me to use a question mark there. So why doesn't J.R. Ward?

And here's another example, from the Foreword to "SEAL of My Dreams," an anthology of stories about Navy SEALS: "Who is better equipped to honor the image of our greatest warrior heroes than the gifted pens of some of the romance industry's finest authors of romantic fiction."

Does it have something to do with the inflection? Generally when asking a question, the voice rises. "Are you going to the store?"

But not always. "Where are you going?"

So really, have the rules of punctuation gone out the window? Is it a lack of knowledge on the part of authors and editors?

I admit to being a nitpicker of epic proportions, and Mrs. Williams's lessons have stayed with me for more years than I'd care to enumerate. Changes in the rules drive me crazy, whether they're universally accepted or just some author's convention.

It shouldn't bother me, should it?

It shouldn't bother me, should it.



  1. Well in my case, I just plain forget the wretched things until I've hit enter. It's a typo, plain and simple. I can see the point of skipping the question mark to show inflection, though, where someething isn't really a question.

  2. Not me. Drive me crazy, it does. :)

  3. I'm tired of bad punctuation in general. You're questioning the disappearance of the question mark and I question the disappearance of the semi-colon in modern fiction.

    My 11th grader came home from school with his English homework that had been checked by his English teacher. I understand his English class is taught as a second language, but his teacher is American and should know better. She did not correct one single punctuation mistake of which there were many. How is the kid supposed to learn? I had to sit with him and show him the correct way to punctuate. The damn woman didn't even correct the absence of a comma in a list.

  4. It always surprises me to see so many mistakes-- spelling, punctuation, grammar, misused words-- in things written by supposedly "literary" people. It's especially noticeable in self-published works (not yours) and e-books. It seems to me that the kindle versions I purchase haven't been subject to the same editing standards as a print book. It's a crying shame.

  5. I don't know. Is it a problem.

  6. You'd think it would be, around here, eh.

  7. Looks like it needs a question mark to me. Maybe poor editing, or an author and editor who both think such sentences don't deserve a question mark.

    Ref: semi-colon
    Jan, I can tell you some publishers don't want you to use them. My editor insists I take them out. Sometimes it's just house rules.

  8. @my anonymousey friends: *snort*... youse guys will do anything to drive me crazeee!

    @Maria, I'm afraid you're right, authors and editors are making up their own rules. And we all know that common usage, if it gets pervasive enough, can become the convention. Maybe I'm just getting old and don't like change...

  9. I love J.D. Robb, but one thing annoys me intensely in her novels...she constantly writes I'd've or something similar. Agreed she only uses it in dialogue, but honestly is it good to use contractions that way? To me it's as bad as writing C U l8er.