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"Will he attack, you wonder?" said Mike.
"Will he attack? You wonder," said Mike.

Mike is talking to someone and saying are you wondering if so and so will attack. Is the first sentence the better punctuated?

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  • You can put the comma where you like. There is no rule. They read differently.
    – Lambie
    Jan 9 at 15:41
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    @dubious - It's correct to end a sentence of direct speech with a comma if it's followed by 'he said' or similar. Jan 9 at 15:58
  • "Will he attack?, you wonder", said Mike.
    – BillJ
    Jan 9 at 18:50
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    << "Will he attack? you wonder," said Mike. >> The internal dialogue ('direct {ie verbatim} thought' as opposed to direct speech) can advantageously be demarcated using italics. Some allow double punctuation (here question mark + comma) where necessary to disambiguate; it isn't, here. Jan 9 at 19:16
  • Assuming Mike”s intonation is upwards after wonder, the question mark can do double duty: The italics indicate unspoken thoughts. “Will he attack, you wonder?” said Mike. Jan 21 at 18:44

1 Answer 1

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Technically, you should write

"'Will he attack?', you wonder," said Mike.

It's really a quote within a quote. Mike makes a statement about a question that "you" ask.

"you wonder" is presumably not part of the question, so the question mark should not come after it. Mike is not asking whether you wonder. You are asking if he will attack.

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  • Technically correct but it looks rather horrible. I'd hope someone could do a Google Books search for real-world examples but it might take a while.
    – Stuart F
    Jan 10 at 0:27
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    Most style guides say that if you end a quotation with a question mark, you don't put a comma after the quotation. So it should be "'Will he attack?' you wonder," said Mike. Jan 21 at 15:33
  • ... Yes; double punctuation (the inverted commas aren't included in the count) is allowed by some, eschewed by others. I use it for clarity; here, the question mark is adequate to offset, doing dual duty. And even commas after and especially before quotes are considered optional by many nowadays. The 'rules' are (1) clarity of meaning / (2) reflection of cadence when spoken / (3) decluttering. Apr 16 at 18:05

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