Common Classroom Punctuation Errors You’re Probably Making – Question Marks


At the risk of becoming a pedant, this is the first in a series of posts about the punctuation errors you’re making in the classrooms. Pay attention and you’re speaking and writing as a teacher will improve. You’re welcome.

First up, the question mark. Here, we find two separate errors of classroom usage.

The first, underuse. Despite the sexy, exploratory curiosity the question mark can bring to learning, many teachers settle, instead, for that old standby, the period. Stop.

We’ve all been there, we’re introducing a new topic of study to the class and it’s well within the wheelhouse of that fancy college education we spent so much on. So, we pick up a bucket of periods and affix them to every sentence that streams from our mouth. Time, oxygen, and student interest are drastically diminished, and the question marks sit in our professional toolboxes – or whatever metaphor teachers are hauling around with them these days.

If, instead, we’d picked up only a handful of question marks, stuck them tightly to the end of a few choice sentences, and deployed them succinctly – oh, the possibilities.

This brings us to our second error in classroom usage of the question mark – misuse.

Maybe your commute was longer than expected. Maybe you forgot your reading glasses. Maybe you thought question marks expired if not used in time. Whatever the reason, you know you’ve used question marks at the end of statements that weren’t really questions. You knew the answer, your students knew the answer, no one was fooled.

If you’re going to step up your question mark usage game (and I suggest that you do), make sure you’re attaching them to actual questions worth answers. Preferably, these are question to which you do not know the answers and are excited about exploring alongside your students.

Question marks know when they’re being misused, and they don’t like it.