If someone were to simply use a single-word interrogative at the end of a sentence, then it would be preceded by a comma, like so:

You were there the night of the murder, right?

But suppose the speaker says the following:

You were there the night of the murder [punctuation here] is that correct?

I know that a semicolon would not be suitable here, so that leaves either a comma or a period. I'm leaning towards a period, but some people have told me to use a comma. I'm a little skeptical about that advice.

What punctuation should be used in a multi-word interrogative at the end of such a sentence as the one above?

  • Why do you think that the comma is wrong? The comma isn't correct in your first example because it's a single word... it's correct because it's correct.
    – Catija
    Oct 17 '16 at 18:44
  • A dash is very versatile. Oct 17 '16 at 18:56
  • Yeah, an em dash would be fine, but I can't use that in this case (due to style guides that I have to follow). @Catija A comma is not correct in that example.
    – AleksandrH
    Oct 17 '16 at 18:57

Either a comma or a period would be correct. A period would make it into two sentences, which would be more standard in current usage. A comma would simply make it a wordy replacement for the single word interrogative. Depending on the speaker and context, each usage could carry implications through emphasis. E.g. "You were there the night of the murder. Is that correct?" is more emphatically an accusation, whereas "You were there the night of the murder, is that correct?" is clearly an interrogative. It's all about style.

  • Ah, see that makes sense now. I can see why the comma would be okay, then. Thanks for distinguishing the tones/emphasis of each.
    – AleksandrH
    Oct 17 '16 at 19:19

How about a semicolon as opposed to the comma, i.e., You were there the night of the murder; right?

  • I wouldn't choose that option, but I wouldn't say that it makes no sense at all. To my mind, a comma works better to indicate a slight pause in the speaker's wording if there is no other change in volume or emphasis, and an em dash (—) works better to indicate a sudden vehemence in the speaker's tone. But a semicolon might work to signify a longer-than-usual pause before "right?" without a major accompanying shift in tone—although in that case I would be inclined to switch to two sentences: "You were there the night of the murder. Right?"
    – Sven Yargs
    Jun 21 '18 at 17:29

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