What About the Question Mark?

My wife and I read a chapter in the New Testament every morning. Well, actually, we have it on iPad. We listen and follow along. This was how I noticed the first letter of the first word following a question mark is always lower case. At least I haven’t found one that wasn’t. In the grand scheme of things it’s no big deal. But I wondered what kind of rules were scholarly people were following?

I’ve asked a number of folks claiming to have earned English degrees. No one provided a satisfactory answer.

Last winter while poking around our local library I came across a book that provided an answer. The correct answer? I can’t be sure because the event in question occurred more than 700 years ago. Everything is hearsay, kind of.

Apparently, before Aldus Manutius, a Venetian editor, arrived on the scene manuscripts had little punctuation, if any at all. The written word must have resembled Jack Kerouac’s initial draft of On the Road: one word after the other until it was finished. The translation of the New Testament may have been what set the project in motion.

When he was finished, Aldus Manutius offered four punctuation characters: colon, semi colon, comma, and period. The question mark was not addressed. Therefore, the first letter of the first word following a question mark did not warrant an uppercase, as it does today.

2 thoughts on “What About the Question Mark?

  1. Interesting discovery, Scott. I have been reading the entire Bible in Latin for many year and I must declare that I did not come across the problem with the question mark.


    • Scott says:

      Peter, reading the entire Bible in Latin is a major accomplishment. I only know two words in Latin. It could be that the question issue doesn’t exist in Latin. Thank you for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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