Grammar question with quotes and question marks
February 9, 2020 4:49 PM   Subscribe

How can I correctly punctuate this sentence: If you have ever asked your partner "What sounds good for dinner?" then you should check out this article.

Is it correct as is? Or should it be corrected? Commas, colons, etc? BTW if there's American vs British differences, it should be American English.
posted by zardoz to Writing & Language (14 answers total)
 
Best answer: Comma after “partner,” and leave the rest as is.
posted by holborne at 5:06 PM on February 9, 2020 [6 favorites]


Best answer: Professional copy editor here. Per the Chicago Manual of Style, the question mark in the middle of the sentence replaces the comma that would normally be there. So add a comma after “partner” to introduce the question. The examples I’m looking at in Chicago all omit the quotation marks.

However, I’d prefer to rewrite under what we call the “looks weird” rule.
Have you ever asked your partner, What sounds good for dinner? Then you should check out this article.
posted by FencingGal at 5:08 PM on February 9, 2020 [7 favorites]


Response by poster: FencingGal: I'm transcribing audio and the way it's said, it doesn't sound like two separate sentences. So your latter example would actually look weirder. I may try that though, thanks guys.
posted by zardoz at 5:10 PM on February 9, 2020


If you’re transcribing audio, that’s different, as I reworded the beginning. In that case, comma after partner, as we’ve said. I would omit quotation marks too.
posted by FencingGal at 5:33 PM on February 9, 2020


See, now, I think there should be a comma after ‘dinner?”’ Because you would write ‘if you have ever asked your partner about potatoes, then you should check out this article.’ But that might be too much punctuation in a row. (Or as FencingGal said, let the question mark do the work of the missing comma.)

Personally, I think I would use single/scare quotes instead of double quotes, though:

If you have ever asked your partner ‘what sounds good for dinner?’, then you should check out this article.
posted by leahwrenn at 7:32 PM on February 9, 2020


Not for nothing, but every single thing you did there is against the rules of every stylebook I’ve used for the past 30 years.
posted by holborne at 7:39 PM on February 9, 2020


If you have ever asked your partner, "What sounds good for dinner?" then you should check out this article.
Or.
If you have ever asked your partner what sounds good for dinner, then you should check out this article.

I'd go with the latter unless the part in quotes is a direct quote. However, this quote is so generic that I wouldn't bother.
posted by TrishaU at 7:45 PM on February 9, 2020 [9 favorites]


I'm twitchy for colons:

If you have ever asked your partner: "what's for dinner?" Then you need to read this article.

(Former English teacher, Australian, still muddling through punctuation rules.)
posted by freethefeet at 10:58 PM on February 9, 2020 [1 favorite]


In American English, colons need to be preceded by complete sentences.

I asked my partner a question: what sounds good for dinner?

(This is not a suggestion for this question. It’s just an example of how to use a colon.)
posted by FencingGal at 3:28 AM on February 10, 2020 [5 favorites]


Have you ever asked your partner, What sounds good for dinner? Then you should check out this article.

What rule in Chicago supports this? This looks very weird to me - especially the capital "W" for something that is not set off in quotation marks as a separate sentence.

I agree that the only ultimate arbitrating authority is a style manual, but from my POV as an erstwhile copyeditor for public-facing material as well as academic material (Chicago), you had it right at the beginning: "If you've ever asked your partner "What sounds good for dinner?" then check this article out."

But I'd rephrase and rewrite anyway - it's just an awkward sentence. Internal quotations often make sentences awkward.
posted by Miko at 5:26 AM on February 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


Another vote for rewriting it to remove the quotation marks. If you've ever asked your partner what they want for dinner, then you should check out this article.
posted by emelenjr at 5:27 AM on February 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


If you have ever asked your partner what sounds good for dinner, then you should check out this article.

Editor/writer here. I would go for TrishaU's second example, as quoted. Every other variant here is awful (though the next best is the version in the question). There is absolutely no reason to present the first half of the sentence as a quote.
posted by cincinnatus c at 5:29 AM on February 10, 2020 [2 favorites]


Mod note: Note: OP has updated that they are transcribing, so rewording or deleting are not options.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:27 AM on February 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


Holborne's very first comment has it. The OP's original transcription was spot on except for that one missing comma.

Also, can I read the article? Cuz yeah, I've asked my partner this question. ;)
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:04 AM on February 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


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