Pet Peeve #61: Using Two or Three Question Marks

questions marksI’ll start with a caveat: I’m probably more sensitive to this pet peeve than the average person. I spend a few hours every day on social media, forums, and e-mail answering questions. I try to reply to every question as quickly as possible.

The vast majority of these questions end with the standard single question mark. Which, let’s be honest, is all you need.

One question mark might even be more than enough. In Japanese, there is no such thing as a question mark. If you end a sentence with a certain letter (ka), the sentence turns into a question. When you’re speaking with someone, you often leave out that character and simply make up for it with your inflection.

Maximum of one question mark, right? So why does anyone ever end a sentence with more than one?

Here’s my theory:

  • The second question mark implies incredulity. As in, “Are you sure you saw a werewolf kissing a stray cat??”
  • The third question mark implies urgency. As in, “It’s been over 3 days now. Why haven’t you picked me up from the Istanbul airport???”

In those situations, I can understand the use of the second or third question mark. But only in those situations. If you start adding question marks all wily-nily, you sound super aggressive, as the above rules still apply. You sound incredulous about things that require no incredulity or urgent about things without urgency.

But, like I said, I’m probably more sensitive to this than the average person. What do you think???