I'm writing a sentence -

If you have a question on 'How to make french fries?', here is the answer.

MS Word shows an error because of those three tiny creatures - a question mark, a closing inverted comma, and a comma itself.


Now, I wonder what to omit?

Question mark is required because it is a question. I must close the quote, so apostrophe sign is also required. A comma is also required because the sentence pauses there.

How to write it correctly?

  • Grammar Girl gives advice from the AP Stylebook and Chicago Manual of Style. AP says "leave out the comma", Chicago says "question mark, comma, close quotes". – stangdon Apr 22 '16 at 11:47
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    The piece enclosed in quotes is not a question but a free relative clause--in effect it is a nominal, the object of the preposition on--so it should not be followed by '?'. And I wouldn't enclose it in quotes, either, or capitalize How. – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 22 '16 at 11:48
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    I agree that the question in question isn't actually a good example of this, but the general issue is still a valid one. For example, you could reasonably phrase a sentence "If your question is 'How do I make french fries?', we have a problem." – stangdon Apr 22 '16 at 12:27

I think it largely depends on style and manual guide you or your editor use. I don't think "how to make French fries" is necessarily a question that requires a question mark. The interrogative or relative adverb "how" could head a noun phrase which is the complement (object) of the preposition "on". Now, if we agree that the how phrase is not a question, we can punctuate the sentence as follows:

If you have a question on "how to make French fries", here is the answer.


If you have a question on how to make French fries, here is the answer.

In the first example, the quotation marks are used to emphasize the details of the question. I don't think there is a specific rule on which quotation mark to use.


The one thought that keeps running through my brain is, “Is anyone else getting hungry for French fries?”, but maybe that's just me.

I agree with you, the combination of question mark/close quote/comma jammed together like that looks clumsy.

Depending on the sentence, I think you could maybe rectify this by using a dash; if there is some space around the dash, I think it looks less ugly:

The one thought that keeps running through my brain is, “Is anyone else getting hungry for French fries?” – but maybe that's just me.

For further analysis on the matter, Grammar Monster has an interesting related post.

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