Consider how it would sound if you were to speak the following requests. You likely would not raise your pitch at the end as you do when you ask a question. You really are not asking someone to do something to which they have the option to reply yes or no; you are making a request that you expect to be met.
May I ask you to please return my call before 5 o’clock.
Will everyone without a ticket please contact the box office by Friday noon.
Could you please send me a list of your core competencies.
Here are four more examples that imply query, but as indirect questions they don’t require a question mark. Contrast them with the true question that follows each:
I wonder if she left her purse in the grocery cart.
Did she leave her purse in the grocery cart?
How about leaving 20 minutes early so I can stop at the pharmacy.
Could we leave 20 minutes early so I can stop at the pharmacy?
She did a great job, didn’t she.
Didn’t she do a great job?
Aren’t you the clever one.
Are you the clever one?
Avoid questions marks when:
- you are making a request for which you do not expect a yes-or-no response
- you are writing words that, if spoken, would not cause you to raise your pitch at the end
Caution: I tested each of these non-questions in Microsoft Word’s spell-check function, and the program suggested adding a question mark to every one of them. This is yet another example of why you can’t count on spell-check to ensure accuracy.
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