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(about omitting the question mark after a non-interrogatory "question")
But there ought to be some reason other than laziness for abandoning useful uniform rules. Oughtn't there?

It's not laziness that leads to omitting the question mark from a non-interrogative question. It's common sense.

A question should directly solicit information. The degree to which a sentence solicits information can vary
continuously between the obvious non-question and the obvious question.
1. "Will you please be quiet, for crying out loud."

That obviously asks for no information whatsoever, so it seems a little absurd to follow it with a question mark. And it would probably be stated with the interrogatory intonation after "quiet"..
2. "Will someone help me find my hat"

If that were intended to directly ask for information, the only answer that could reasonably be expected would be simply "Yes" or "No", followed by no effort to find the hat, and that would obviously not be the intent of the request. The intent is to get someone started looking for the hat. So it's a matter of personal preference whether it gets a question mark or not. I would prefer no question mark except after a direct request for information.
3. "How much is half of six?"

That clearly asks for information, so its need of a question mark is indisputable.
But there ought to be some reason other than laziness for abandoning useful uniform rules. Oughtn't there?

It's not laziness that leads to omitting the question mark from a non-interrogative question. It's common sense. A question should ... "How much is half of six?" That clearly asks for information, so its need of a question mark is indisputable.

Having just marked a piece of work in which the student posed many questions but included no question marks, I have been reflecting on this and conclude that the omission of question marks when the sentence begins with "Will" makes me uncomfortable. I would rewrite 1 and 2 as follows:
Please will you be quiet. Please will someone help me find my hat.

I can't work out why, but the "Please" seems to make the question mark less essential.

Laura
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Please will you be quiet. Please will someone help me find my hat. I can't work out why, but the "Please" seems to make the question mark less essential.

I think these are exclamations: "Please will you be quiet!", where the "!" removes any need for a "?". The second could just about be a real question: "Please, will someone help me find my hat?", though the "Please" makes that unlikely.
David
Having just marked a piece of work in which the student posed many questions but included no question marks, I ... me find my hat. I can't work out why, but the "Please" seems to make the question mark less essential.

Well, I'll be born if that don't sound a fair bit Dickensian. It's obvious that you rightpondian types have different ears from us leftpondians.
I agree with Mr C that if the sentence, rhetorical or not, asks for info rather than action, it's a true Q and needs a "?", but if it asks for action without the final rising intonation, it ain't and don't. Anything is possible. I think that Mr C'd allow that Liebs and Laura'd be within their rights (Ha!) by puttin' a "?" at the end of any interrogatively structured clause as long as they'd allow the rest of us the right (Ha!) to omit the "?" the way we'd omit a comma based on our personal and professional judgement. I'd allow it, anyways.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor
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Having just marked a piece of work in which the ... the "Please" seems to make the question mark less essential.

Well, I'll be born if that don't sound a fair bit Dickensian. It's obvious that you rightpondian types have different ... omit the "?" the way we'd omit a comma based on our personal and professional judgement. I'd allow it, anyways.

A grammatical question's a question and needs a question mark. Full stop.
Whether it's a question in its semantic intent is irrelevant. Lots of grammatical questions are not proper semantic questions.

"I've trodden in a three dog turds today. Can you believe it?"

means this:
"I've trodden in three dog turds today. It's outrageous!"

and not this:
"I've trodden in three dog turds today. Now tell me whether you think that statement is true or a lie."
I see no difference between not-really-questions of this type, all of which (I hope) we'd give the question marks they need, and questions that are requests of the "Would you please shut up?" type, and so see no reason to punctuate them any differently.

Ross Howard
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Well, I'll be born if that don't sound a ... on our personal and professional judgement. I'd allow it, anyways.

A grammatical question's a question and needs a question mark. Full stop. Whether it's a question in its semantic intent ... are requests of the "Would you please shut up?" type, and so see no reason to punctuate them any differently.

Yabbut, then you aren't a devotee of the CMS, 14th Ed. I'm not sure i am either, but some of the publishers I rewrite stuff for are.

The fact is, there is a choice out here in the real world of writing, rewriting, revising, and editing. It isn't that I don't agree with your point about what "Can you believe that?" means in this particular instance, but it is one of those rhetorical questions that not everybody understands is rhetorically "It's outrageous!" in question form, so they provide answers. That's what Mr C said about there being a continuum in these things, and that's one of his points with which I wholeheartedly agree. I think that both you and Liebs are being rather gauleiterly about this whole thing, if I may say so?

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor
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Yabbut, then you aren't a devotee of the CMS, 14th Ed. I'm not sure i am either, but some of ... I think that both you and Liebs are being rather gauleiterly about this whole thing, if I may say so?

Can't we be mullahs or satraps? Gauleiters are soo thirties.

Anyway, I've just thought of another one.
A: Are you coming for a drink?
B: Do bears *** in the woods?
No question, B is saying "Damn right, I am!" More declarative and assertive, impossible. Yet we give it a question mark because it's a grammatical question.
Compare that with this request, which actually requires some sort of response:
A: Would you please turn that music down?
B: Okay, mum.
No, I remain unconvinced. Requests should not be treated as special cases if other non-question questions aren't as well.

Ross Howard
I see. Intriguing.

THey're perfectly grammatical and comprehemsible in my UK English, and require no firced usage or archaisms to become comprehensible. Of course they're difficult to understand, because they require at least a double take after falling into the nonsensical interpretation trap, but that's what garden path sentences do. They're the linguistic equivalent of the joke whose punchline forces you to revise your interpretation of the preceding story. Like optical illusions, they trick the normal legerdemain of the underlying computational processes into making a mistake which reveals their existence, and something of how they work.

Chris Malcolm (Email Removed) +44 (0)131 651 3445 DoD #205 IPAB, Informatics, JCMB, King's Buildings, Edinburgh, EH9 3JZ, UK (http://www.dai.ed.ac.uk/homes/cam/)
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Yabbut, then you aren't a devotee of the CMS, 14th ... gauleiterly about this whole thing, if I may say so?

Can't we be mullahs or satraps? Gauleiters are soo thirties.

Okay, okay. You and Liebs are being rather ayatollahish about this whole thing, if I may say so.
Anyway, I've just thought of another one. A: Are you coming for a drink? B: Do bears *** in the ... right, I am!" More declarative and assertive, impossible. Yet we give it a question mark because it's a grammatical question.

And it's said with rising intonation, so it's one of those rhetorical questions I'd give a "?" to. But I don't give "?"s to this kind of sentence:
A: You"re pretty testy today, aren't you.
It's a declarative all the way in my mind and said with falling intonation. I don't want a response. I'm making a statement. Ergo, no "?".
Compare that with this request, which actually requires some sort of response: A: Would you please turn that music down? B: Okay, mum.

And this is another one of those that can be given a "?" in this context if mum uses rising intonation. But:
A: Will you cut the crap, soldier!
B: Yes, sir!
and
C: Cut the crap, soldier!
D: Yes, sir!
Are exactly the same. They're both orders. No rising intonation. Both require the exact same response even, but one is not at all in question form. That eliminates the requirement of a response as a factor.
No, I remain unconvinced.

The nice thing about such debates is that they are over matters of taste and style. You don't have to be convinced of anything; nor do I. We just have to have our own preferences. Unless the publisher demands that we use one style manual or another, and then we just have to follow the rules regardless of our preferences.
Requests should not be treated as special cases if other non-question questions aren't as well.

But I treat every sentence as something sui generis.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor
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