Tag Archives: question marks

I Wonder What the Job Title Is

My friend Fran couldn’t wait to tell me about the sign she saw on the back of an old pickup truck:

We Remediate Urine Damage

of Cats, Dogs, Rodents, Hoarders, Infestations

We Remediate Odor Damage 

on Sub floors/Concrete/Drywall/Carpet

BTW, if you think I should put a question mark at the end of my subject line, I will point out that even though I am questioning what the job title might be, it’s not a question. It’s a statement: I’m just saying I’m wondering about something.


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Question Marks


You know to put a question mark at the end of a direct question: “Where have you been?” However, I often see them where they do not belong, such as at the end of sentences containing the words “wonder” and guess.” (If you put those words in the search box on this blog, you’ll find a post I wrote addressing that problem.)

Another place they don’t belong is in indirect questions such as the following: “Terrence would like to know when Algernon will be in England?” This is a statement of fact. Terrence himself must have asked, “When will Algernon be in England?” But you are merely stating what Terrence is wondering about. Thank you for holding  your question mark.

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imagesPerhaps you’ve never heard the word “uptalk”? Even if you haven’t, I know you’ve heard it every day? You might be wondering why I’m ending these sentences with question marks? I’ve just written three declarative sentences that should end with a period. But the question mark tells the voice to rise at the end, making each sentence sound like a question. The result is uptalk.

That is what linguists have named the common tendency of people to end their sentences with a rising inflection. It is associated with “Valley Girl” cadences, seems to be more common among females, and may serve several purposes.

It may show genuine uncertainty: “You asked me where Joseph put his report, but I’m not sure?”

It may indicate lack of confidence: “I really would prefer not to head that committee?”

It may soften correcting another person: “Sheila has been with this company for five years, not three?”

When a man uptalks in public to correct a woman, he may think he is being chivalrous, telling her she is wrong but being careful about not embarrassing her: “I know you meant well when mentoring Alex, but it would have been better to listen to him first before challenging him?”

As much as I find it annoying, I think uptalk is here to stay.


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