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7.10 Requests, indirect questions and other uses

Opinions differ as to whether a polite request of the type May I . . . , Would you . . . or Will you . . . requires the question mark. However, a question mark will look out of place after longer requests of this kind, especially if the sentence embodies straightforward affirmative elements:

  • May I escort you to your car?
  • Will you come this way, please.
  • Will you please go—before I have you thrown out.

Although the question mark is normally omitted after indirect questions, one may be added if the sentence has the force of a request:

  • I wonder if you could give me two dollars for the bus ride home?

Occasionally a question will incorporate an exclamatory element. The writer must then decide whether the interrogative or the exclamatory element is to be given greater prominence:

  • What hath God wrought!
  • How many times must I tell you?

A question mark in parentheses (italicized in square brackets in quoted material) is inserted after information about which the writer is uncertain:

  • The explorer William Kennedy, a strong advocate of the annexation of Rupert’s Land to Canada, was born at Cumberland House (?), Rupert’s Land, on April 26, 1814.

Indicate missing digits with a question mark:

  • Henri Potvin (1615–165?)

See Chapter 8 Quotations and Quotation Marks for the use of the question mark with quotation marks and other punctuation.