How to ask a question?
I just came across this website for the first time, and immediately thought of one of my grammatical pet peeves: the improper usage of the phrase “how to” in the context of a question, as frequently seen in topic titles on web messageboards everywhere.
ex: “How to get from the airport to downtown?” ex: “How to remove blood stains from clothing?”
A “How to” phrase indicates that the text that follows the statement will be an informative, if not authoritative description of how to do or accomplish whatever it is being discussed. When used as an informal topic title or heading, think of “how to” as “THIS IS” or “HERE IS how to (do whatever)”.
ex: “Here is how to get from the airport to downtown” ex: “This is how to remove blood stains from clothing”
If a question is being asked, “How do I.. ?”, “How might I.. ?”, “How would I.. ?”, “How could/can I.. ?”, “How should I.. ?” - or any of those using “one” or another pronoun in place of “I” - are acceptable. Regardless, as a question, it should always end with a question mark.
So those same 2 examples again: “How can I get from the airport to downtown?” “How would I remove blood stains from clothing?”
Perhaps an easier, and equally acceptable way of re-phrasing an informal question such as the above is to drop the “How...” altogether and add ‘ing’ to the verb.
ex: “Getting from the airport to downtown?” ex: “Removing blood stains from clothing?”
Without any ‘helper’ words such as “how can” or “How would”, etc, the reader must now rely entirely on the punctuation (the question mark) at the end of the phrase in order to understand the phrase’s meaning.
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