Believe it or not, some people have actually cried 96 Tears over where and when to use a question mark. It's not always as straightforward as one might think. In fact, sometimes it's downright mysterious - some might say, "It's a Mysterian." We'll begin with the obvious and end with the less so.
The question mark is used to mark a direct question, to indicate an editorial doubt, or (occasionally) to express surprise or disbelief.
- Who will represent the poor?
- Mortimer Schnerd (1948?-59) had a rather wooden personality.
- This is your reply?
Within a sentence. A question mark is used within a sentence at the end of a direct question. If the question does not begin the sentence, it need not start with a capital letter.
- Is it worth the risk? he wondered.
- The question, how can the two be reconciled? was on everyone's mind.
- "Have you read the platform?" asked Mark.
- What did she mean when she said, "The foot now wears the different ski"?
If a question mark and an exclamation point are both called for, only the mark more appropriate to the context should be retained.
- Who shouted, "Up the establishment!"
Indirect question. An indirect question never takes a question mark.
- He wondered whether it was worth the risk.
- How the two could be reconciled was the question on everyone's mind.
Indirect one-word question. When a question within a sentence consists of a single word, such as who, when, how, or why, a question mark may be omitted, and the word is sometimes italicized.
- She asked herself why.
- The question was no longer how but when.
Courtesy question. A request courteously disguised as a question does not need a question mark.
- Would you kindly respond by March 1.
- Will the audience please rise.
With quotation marks, parentheses, or brackets. A question mark should be placed inside quotation marks, parentheses, or brackets only when it is part of the quoted or parenthetical matter.
- Which of Shakespeare's characters said, "All the world's a stage"?
- The tournament director asked, "Is the MasterCraft on the water yet?"
- Why was Farragut trembling when he said, "I'm here to sing 96 Tears"?
- Emily (had we met before?) winked at me.
- Why did she tell him only on the morning of his departure (July 5)?
- "What do you suppose he had in mind," inquired Newman, "when he said, 'You are all greater fools than I thought'?"
Wipe those 96 tears away now that question marks are no longer mysterious!
Source: The Chicago Manual of Style.