If I am asking a complex question, I would write it like this:

Do you have, by chance, three pennies on you?

Should I write a complex question that turns into a list without the comma?

Do you have, by chance:

  • 3 pennies?
  • 2 shillings?

or like this

Do you have, by chance,:

  • 3 pennies?
  • 2 shillings?

First of all, a complex question is something different from the sense I think you mean it here.

complex question A fallacy in which the answer to a given question presupposes a prior answer to a prior question.

Second, in a list following a parenthetical expression, you are entitled to precede the list with a comma.

Do you have, by chance, three pennies on you?

It is not necessary to add bullet points or use a colon or whatever. You can make lists with this, but they are not necessarily better than your first instinct.

  • Would it be more "complex sentence as a question"? – Dan May 13 '11 at 16:26

You never need a comma and a colon back to back.

Do you have, by chance:

3 pennies?

2 shillings?

Seems like the way to go, to me.


Of the two, choose the first one: a colon without a comma. A list of items is a distinct construction with its own rules, so you don't need to replicate the structure of a conventional sentence.


Of course not, and the reason is simple:

When you start a list you use only the colon, and since you can't (except in other few cases) use two punctuation signs next to each other, the comma disappears.

  • 2
    You can't use two punctuations signs next to each other!? Oh, no!! – phenry May 13 '11 at 16:21
  • @phenry: What's wrong? If you have something interesting to say, say it. Otherwise, restrain yourself from commenting. – Alenanno May 13 '11 at 16:28
  • @Alenanno: It was just a joke. I'm sorry if you didn't find it amusing. Try being less thin-skinned. – phenry May 13 '11 at 17:43
  • @phenry: It didn't sound friendly at all, try making better jokes next time. :) – Alenanno May 13 '11 at 17:54
  • @Alenanno: I am gratified to see that at least one other person disagrees with you. – phenry May 13 '11 at 18:17

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