04 December 2009


This post may not be what you think it is. Mostly I'm talking about the Chicago Manual of Style. You know, the orange bible?

I've been having this problem of late, so I decided to ask Chicago about it (via their Q+A).

I even composed a rhyme--a sort of rain dance--for good luck:

Got a burning grammar question, or maybe two.

Chicago, I'm counting on you to pull through.

(Q+A, Q+A, Q+A, rah-rah-rah!)

Here it is (If you have any thoughts, please tell me.):

I know that 6.123 says that a question mark should never accompany a comma or period because it is stronger than these punctuation marks. But what about a colon? I have several times wanted to compose a sentence with a similar structure to the following:

"Which of the two following phrases is more correct?: 'our house, mine and Tom's,' or 'Tom's and my house.'"

I don't know how to punctuate this sentence. (And on an unrelated note, I'm not sure how to avoid awkwardness when it comes to joint possessives where one of the possessors is a first-person personal pronoun.) Is there a way to do this easily? Or do I need to rewrite?


Tim said...

try the question mark at the end of the sentence.

Kirsten said...

That whole pronoun thing is impossibly awkward. That's what I learned from my usage class (if I remember correctly. Embrace the awkwardness, or rewrite.

RachelTachel said...

I'm with Tim:

"Which of the two following phrases are more correct: 'our house, mine and Tom's,' or 'Tom's and my house.'?"

You're still asking a question in that second part. You'd do the same for a simpler sentence: "Which pie do you like best: banana cream or apple?"

Quotation marks and other punctuation can just make things seem more complicated than they really are.

And, personally, I don't think you need to say "two."

Amanda S. said...

Ah yes, but I'm asking two questions on purpose, sort of. It's my sneaky way of trying to get Chicago to answer them both!

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