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If a sentence ends in "OK", and the sentence is a request, usually there is a comma before the OK and a question mark after it.

The comma signifies a pause, correct? What if there was no pause, then does a comma still have to be used? What if the request is more like a demand, then can a period be used instead of a question mark?

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4 Answers 4

The comma can signify a pause, but it also has many other grammatical functions. In fact, I would say that most uses of the comma are not actually marking pauses, but since it marks clausal boundaries, it often aligns with pauses. But if we actually used commas to mark all of the places we wanted pauses, sentences would actually look quite strange (and if we paused for every comma, we would sound strange too).

For example if I say "get out" emphatically, with a pause between "get" and "out", would it look right for me to write:

Get, out!

Or, say, something like this:

I, don't know.

Certainly a pause between "I" and "don't" is something people often do in speech, so why is it so strange written that way? Because commas don't actually mark pauses. If anything, we use "..." to mark pauses that aren't clausal boundaries.

In many cases, pausing for commas is clearly unnecessary. For example, when I say "John, Sally, and I went to the park", those commas are required whether or not I pause. When I see "dark, stormy clouds", a comma is required there as well. When I write "it's nice to see you, John", the comma marks the fact that I am addressing John. It doesn't matter if I pause or not.

In the case of your question, you are separating two clauses when you put the comma before "OK". Whether or not you actually pause is irrelevant to the use of the comma, so it should always be there (formally speaking).

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The comma there also gives the sentence the right syntax.

Consider this sentence:

You're coming with us ok?

It looks wrong, it doesn't meake any sense. Obviously, since you know the language, you can "add" with your brain the comma and give it a sense, in order to understand the sentence. But then you see that the comma has more purpose than just being a pause marker.

You're coming with us, ok?

When speaking, you can say it without emphasizing the pause that much, it's true, but written form is always stricter than spoken one; I think this is a valid "rule" not only for English.

A demand with a period sounds odd, if you provide an example, we can discuss over it, but it seems odd proposed like this.

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I don't know, "You're coming with us. OK?" may be the most accurate punctuation. In this case, 'OK?' means 'Is that acceptable?' or "Any objections?'. "You're coming with us, is that acceptable?" or "You're coming with us, any objections?" are certainly wrong. There are two ideas expressed here: a demand and a request. Formally, they should be separate sentences. It may be a soft break when spoken, but I don't think that's how it should be written. –  Bacon Bits Apr 11 '11 at 0:16
The period seems too much for me. Even if in reality you can make longer pauses, a period completely separates two sentences, and we don't want them completely separated. Where are you from anyway? If you don't mind me asking, it's related to this matter. –  Alenanno Apr 11 '11 at 8:03
I have to agree with @Bacon Bits; sometimes we do want the sentences completely separated. It emphasizes a particular way of saying the words that usually amounts to a demand. It's not just the break, it's the intonation pattern as well that comes to a full halt at the period. –  user1579 Apr 11 '11 at 14:53

The comma is added because there is a pause, but it also makes clear there aren't any errors in the phrase.

Compare the following two sentences.

This is not correct right?
This is not correct, right?

Looking at the first sentence, I would think that who wrote the sentence meant to write "correctly right," but he wrote "correct right."

Sometimes, the comma is needed to give a particular "effect" to the sentence. Compare the following sentences.

We aim to please. You aim too please.
We aim to please. You aim, too, please.

If you read the first sentence, it will probably seem you are reading "you aim to please," but it will be clearer what you say when you read the second sentence.

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If it is a question, you definitely need a question mark. As to the comma, the usual pace of speech in "blah blah, OK?" would suggest a comma, but this is really up to the style of the writer.

I feel that OK As an imperative does not require a question mark. In general imperatives using questions do not (always) need them:

"Miss Collins, will you close the window."

"Miss Collins, close the window, OK."

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