Sunday 24 February 2013

A Common Comma Commotion.

Here is a strange comma dilemma that has been handled in many different ways by different writers. But what is the correct punctuation when there is a question or implied question in a sentence?

This is what the Chicago Manual of Style says: Questions are sometimes included within another sentence either directly or indirectly—not as a quotation but as part of the sentence as a whole. A direct question (unless it comes at the beginning of a sentence) is usually introduced by a comma. A direct question may take an initial capital letter if it is relatively long or has internal punctuation.
  • The dragon asked himself, what am I going to do now?
  • Everybody at the palace wanted to know, how will the king handle the dilemma?
  • The royal council had to be asking themselves, Can the king find a solution to the problem, or will the dragon dictate his answer?  
Rephrasing  a direct question into an indirect question can make the sentence less awkward. An indirect question does not require a question mark, nor does it need to be set off with a comma. Indirect questions are never capitalized (except at the beginning of a sentence). Some ways to rephrase:
  • The dragon asked himself  what he was going to do now.
  • Everybody at the palace wanted to know how the king would handle the dilemma.
  • Where to find a reliable dragon was the question.
Indirect questions do not need a question mark at the end of the sentences just because the word question is in the sentence or a question is implied.

I hope this helps you solve a common comma commotion.

copyright, Diane Mae Robinson, 2013

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