I recently said the following in chat:

Do you mean 90 cents, or 9 cents?
90 cents.
Okay, you left out the zero so I wasn't sure.

Afterwards it occurred to me I could have replaced the comma with a semi-colon. This led to a discussion with @ArdaXi over what the correct punctuation mark to use in this situation is: a comma, semi-colon, or period. The uncertainty arises from the fact that okay is a pro-sentence.

What is the proper punctuation to use when joining a pro-sentence with an independent clause?

  • 1
    What do you mean by "pro-sentence"? This isn't an English grammatical term that I'm familiar with. Aug 11, 2011 at 12:05
  • Why do I always seem to stir up questions on this site?
    – Arda Xi
    Aug 11, 2011 at 12:07
  • @JSBᾶngs en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pro-sentence
    – Wipqozn
    Aug 11, 2011 at 12:11
  • I've added more context to my question
    – Wipqozn
    Aug 11, 2011 at 12:52
  • I think that Wikipedia page is a bit of a waste of space. I also think that "okay" could have been a sentence in OP's example, had it been followed by a full-stop. Since it wasn't, it's not. Finally, I think it should have been written as a sentence in its own right, since it's effectively shorthand for "I understand". Aug 11, 2011 at 17:21

3 Answers 3


The punctuation after okay is correct. Sentence-initial particles such as okay, well, so, etc. are written with a following comma.

Well, we decided to move.

So, it seems like John has to get a new care.

In your case, I'd say that you're missing a comma after zero and an additional pronoun:

Okay, you left out the zero , so I wasn't sure.

  • The I was a mistake on my part. I edited it into my original sentence.
    – Wipqozn
    Aug 11, 2011 at 12:10
  • I suppose it's a moot point what if anything "Okay" means in OP's example. I read it as "I understand.", but I guess you're reading it as "Well yes, but..." Aug 11, 2011 at 17:26

What is the proper punction to use when joining a pro-sentence with an independent clause?

It depends on the relevance of the first and second sentence. If the first and second sentence are very closely related, then a comma is used. If the first and second sentences are not that closely related, but still related, a semicolon is used, to show that they are not very closely related, but not separate enough to be entire new sentences.


John took an apple, and as a result, all the apples fell from the cart.
John took an apple; Katie took an apple too.

However, in your sentence, okay is not a previous sentence, or an independent clause. It's more of a discourse particle.. In this case, a comma would be used.

  • 2
    Hm, according to wikipedia, discourse particle has no direct semantic meaning in the context (examples: well, y'know, like). I agree that 'okay' can be a discourse particle, but it can also semantically stand for 'yes I agree' or 'I understand' in which case it can not be a discourse particle (I believe this is the case here - he agrees with what was previously said and explains why he objected or questioned).
    – Unreason
    Aug 11, 2011 at 12:31
  • Yes, but that doesn't make Okay an independent clause
    – Thursagen
    Aug 11, 2011 at 12:36
  • How not? If we take it to mean 'yes I agree with what you said', then for sure - it can stand independently. He could have said only 'Okay.' Also, wikipedia lists it as an example of pro-sentence (along with yes, no and amen) - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pro-sentence
    – Unreason
    Aug 11, 2011 at 12:46

Depending on the context, if 'okay' is indeed a pro-sentence in your example (if the previous sentence was something like "The number should be one thousand, not one hundred."), then I would say you are missing a semicolon. If the 'okay' in your example is not anaphorically linked to previous information then it would qualify as a discourse particle and should be used with a comma like any other.

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