Is it ever okay to follow a question mark with a comma or semi-colon? For example, would any of the following be valid?

The main questions addressed in the literature are: who said it?, what does it mean?, and does it all make sense?


The main questions addressed in the literature are, (i) who said it?; (ii) what does it mean?; and (iii) does it all make sense?


The main questions addressed in the literature are, "who said it?", "what does it mean?", and "does it all make sense?"

  • 2
    I'd favour the last option, but with each question capitalized. This may be a matter of style rather than language though. Have you looked at any style guides with respect to this? – Max Williams Sep 19 '16 at 15:40
  • In most style guides I've been exposed to, you wouldn't use the question marks at all. You are writing a statement and you already mentioned the following phrases are questions. It's just as if you wrote: "Are you sure," he asked. "He asked" is a statement, even though "he" asked a question. – VampDuc Sep 19 '16 at 16:06
  • @VampDuc, but the "Are you sure" part is usually followed by a question mark, not a comma. – vpn Sep 19 '16 at 16:28
  • @vanderpn Upon further research: It depends on the style guide you are using. I was taught as I said. – VampDuc Sep 19 '16 at 16:40

Punctuation is a matter of style, and as such you should be guided by your manual of style, either the one you've chosen or the one thrust upon you. I use the Chicago Manual of Style, which advises the following:

  1. Do not place rhetorical or hypothetical questions in quotes.
  2. When two consecutive marks coincide, retain only the stronger (except in cases not applicable here, which involve quotation marks, dashes, parentheses, and brackets).
  3. An initial capital for such questions is the author's choice, but generally, "the more formal the question, the more usual" the capital
  4. Do not use a colon before a list that serves as a complement or object.

This leaves you with

The main questions addressed in the literature are who said it? what does it mean? and does it all make sense?

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