Everyone knows what a question is . . . don't they? You'd think so, but one of my absolute pet peeves is when people think they're asking a question, but utterly fail to actually do so.
Photo: Valerie Everett
Neil Gaiman summed it up rather nicely when presenting recently at the Sydney Writer's Festival, quoting Tom Stoppard, who was quoting Neil Gaiman. You can do that when you're famous. Just prior to the Q&A session, Gaiman spoke about the dreadful tendency for questions in this kind of context to turn into monologues:
A question is a short interrogative statement with a question mark at the end, capable of being answered by the person on the stage.
You're probably not on a stage right now, but he's absolutely right regardless of context. Too many questions I hear being asked aren't questions at all. They're statements of opinion or just the question-asker loving the sound of their own voice far too much. Keep it short, keep it simple, say it in a sentence; that's the essence of no-nonsense language, whether you're writing something down or simply having a conversation.
Lifehacker's Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing (or in this case, speaking).