How should I style a direct question contained in a sentence?
Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook.
If a direct question contained in a sentence is long or has internal punctuation, set the question off with a comma and begin it with a capital letter:
The question posed to the MLA editors was, How should a question contained in a sentence be punctuated?
The teacher wondered, Will my students ever understand how to incorporate a question in a sentence, or will they always do it incorrectly?
A single question contained in a sentence can also be preceded by a colon as long as the word before the question is not a verb. The question should start with a capital letter:
The answer left us with another question: When can a question be preceded by a colon?
Use lowercase letters to begin questions incorporated in series in a sentence:
Should I punctuate a question contained in a sentence with a comma? with a colon? with a dash?
In the example above, the questions in series are not capitalized because they are not complete sentences and do not begin with a proper noun.
But questions in series that are complete sentences are usually more appropriately styled with an initial capital letter:
I have several questions: What punctuation should I use? In what circumstances should I use it? What are the rules?