I'm writing dialogue for a short story and I want to 'transcribe' the characters' colloquialisms in a way that best adheres to the rules of written English (I'm an ESL speaker). My protag ends some of her sentences with expressions like "is all" and "is how" (e.g. "Just asking is all"). My questions is, Is that type of expression supposed to have a comma beforehand? Or would that be a comma splice? Example from the short story itself: "How did you know I was over by the fountain?" "Sister Amy told me [,] is how." The descriptivist and prescriptivist parts of me disagree on the matter. Thanks in advance, folks. :)

  • Similar question: english.stackexchange.com/questions/178505/… . No comma is used before "is all" in this question. Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 18:51
  • Technically, "XXX is all" is a sentence, with XXX being the subject, so no comma is needed (from a pure syntax/semantics point of view). This is true even if XXX is "You need to climb the Empire State Building and jump off". However, a comma may be used to represent a brief pause in speech, with the pause helping the listener parse the (rather complex) sentence, and the same may apply to printed text that is never actually spoken.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 21:30

1 Answer 1


You would not need to add a comma to "is all," however, you would likely need to add a comma if the phrase were "that's all."


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