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“? Or ?” — Which Is Correct?

The other day our graphic designer, Debbie Esposito, emailed a common question:

Which heading is punctuated correctly?

Heading 1: What Is “Computers for Kids”?

Heading 2: What Is “Computers for Kids?”

To recognize the correct heading, follow this rule:

If the entire sentence (or heading) is a question, the question mark belongs at the end–after the closing quotation mark.

If just the material within quotation marks is a question, the question mark belongs inside the closing quotation mark.

Following the rule, the correct heading is Number 1.


Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

One comment on ““? Or ?” — Which Is Correct?”

  • If you end a sentence with a phrase or word in parenthesis, where does the punctuation fall (inside or outside of the parenthesis)? And, are parenthesis overused?

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