“Do You Know What I Mean?” and Other Nonquestions

Margie Wakeman Wells The Comma, The Question Mark Leave a Comment

When someone has a language “glitch” and uses a word or phrase over and over, that word or phrase is surrounded by commas.

…He was, like, on the, you know, edge that day.
…The company, like, you know, did not really have, like, a policy, you know, on that.

When this type of element is normally a question but is being used as just a “glitch,” the same rule applies — unless the intent is really to ask a question.

…He was in charge — right? — of the night crew? (“Right?” of course, is a tag clause that turns the whole sentence into a question.)

…I am asking you — okay? — to change your seat. (He is really asking the guy to change seats.)

When words like “right” and “okay” are sprinkled throughout sentences, they are no longer really asking a question. They should be surrounded by commas as throwaways as the true intent of asking a question is not really present.

…He was sitting, right, near the door, right, when I saw him, right, for the first time.
…I know, okay, that he was intending, okay, to fire the manager, okay, when I was hired.

Happy punctuating!

Margie

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