Search Electric Library

  Issue 126, page 3

Search Home FAQ Links Site map Book Store

BackIssues

New Ask Us Theory About

curmdgeon.GIF (1254 bytes) Curmudgeons' Corner

Guess what guest-mudgeon Bruce Yanoshek is bothered by.

One punctuation problem that bothers me is the phrase "Guess what?". This is not a question, but a command or request (imperative sentence for you grammarians), and so should not have a question mark. If you say it, you can observe that your voice doesn't go up at the end like a question, yet it is almost always written with a question mark.  I'm sure that people do that because "what" is a question word, yet it isn't at all common to see "Tell me why" or "Show me how" with a question mark. 

Oooh, that one gets our goat[s], too!  However, one's voice doesn't necessarily rise at the end of a question.  "Where were you last night?" sounds quite unnatural with a rising tone at the end.  However, "Guess what" is indeed a command.

The other side of the coin is an error that occurs with "would", as in "Would you hand me that pencil?"  A question is being asked here, and a question mark is proper, though many people use only a period, even in business letters and other formal writing!

Is there something you read or hear that sends you up the wall?

Do tell us. 

Read this before commenting on this week's Curmudgeons' Corner

PREVIOUS  |  NEXT

Comments, additions? Send to Melanie & Mike: melmike@takeourword.com
DO NOT SEND QUERIES TO THAT ADDRESS.  Instead, ASK US.
Copyright 1995-2001
TIERE
Last Updated 08/18/01 06:35 PM