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Using The Question Mark In The Essay Title: A Brief Instruction


The use of a question mark in an essay title remains one of the main issues of concern for teachers. While it appears easy and straightforward, teachers have identified common misuse or failure to use, an aspect that is reducing the score of many students. Understanding the use of a question mark on the title will make your work easy to understand and standardized. Here is a guide on how to effectively and correctly use question marks in titles.

  • The Title Must Be a Structured Question
  • In case you need to use a question mark on your title, ensure that the question is properly structured. This means it has a subject being interrogated and a direction of interrogation. For instance, a title probing the legality of death penalty could read, “Is death penalty right?” The subject in this case is the death penalty and the perspective is whether it is right or wrong.

  • An Interrogation
  • Question marks can also be used in titles interrogating issues. The interrogation seeks to get more information about the subject in question. An example of such a title would be, “How does parenting affect the confidence of a child?

  • A Rhetorical Question
  • Question marks are also used on essay titles that contain rhetorical questions. Though the body of the paper might not provide a substantive answer to the question, the title will indicate an open ended debate. An example is, “Who cares about the treatment of prisoners?” Such a title is meant to provoke the thoughts of the reader and not necessarily provide a direct answer.

  • Appears at the End
  • In most cases, question marks appear at the end of the sentence or title. It is only in rare circumstances that it will appear in the middle. Appearance in the middle is only permitted if the question is part of a title e.g. a book or movie, or the question is being interrogated. An example is, “What the phrase, Why did the chicken cross the road? means in ordinary language.

  • Indication of Uncertainty or Doubt
  • Question marks in essay titles can be used to indicate a debate that might fall on either side. The debate is mainly on an issue that is too close to call. It indicates the reluctance of the writer to take a definite position on the issue. E.g. “Is global warming a hyped debate?”

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