Q. Is it necessary to use a comma after words like next, then, after that, last, and finally when they are the beginning of a sentence? I am a lower-school teacher and need to clarify this.

Q. Is it “Hello Mr. Doe” or “Hello, Mr. Doe”?

Q. Please tell me if it’s permissible to use a comma rather than a semicolon in the following sentence: “The idea isn’t to use the test to get people in trouble, it’s to help them avoid decisions they’ll regret later.” The rules seem to suggest that a semicolon is preferred but not absolutely required; a semicolon feels to me like it separates the thoughts more than I’d like.

Q. How should the sentence “Guess what” be punctuated? I realize that it’s technically an imperative sentence, which should end with a period (or exclamation point), but in many contexts it’s used as if it were interrogatory, and thus it’s often punctuated with a question mark rather than a period. Is this simply incorrect?

Q. Hi, CMOS people. You answered a question for me a few days ago, about using a comma or a colon to introduce dialogue in a book project we are doing. We took your advice and are using commas. My friend, though, would still like to use a colon to introduce internal dialogue. (Michael thought: if I go home now, Mother will know I forgot something). Would that be OK, or should we stick to commas for everything? Thanks!!

Q. This may be impossible to answer, but I feel it’s important, so I’m gonna give it my best shot. This is how I would punctuate the following:

Can you believe that I said, “When she says, ‘Do you know which fruit Jim likes best: apples, bananas, or oranges?,’ tell her this: ‘Actually, I once overheard Jim say, “I only eat pears!” ’.”?!

Q. Realizing that every style guide I have read states that periods always go inside quotation marks, I argue that, if a quote is only a part of a sentence, the period at the end applies to the entire sentence, and not just to the quoted part; therefore, it should be placed outside the closing quotation mark. Does this reasoning “hold any water” at all?

Q. With the author-date system, I know that punctuation is supposed to follow the reference—for example, “And his other misfortune” (Brown 2001, 1a). But does this still hold true for questions? It just plain looks wrong to me. For example:

It appears as if, in the culture of breast cancer, death is a taboo: “Why is there no room in this cult for some gracious acceptance of death, when the time comes, which it surely will, through cancer or other misfortune” (Ehrenreich 2001, 1a)?

Q. I know the period or comma goes inside both single and double quotation marks, but is an apostrophe treated the same as a single quotation mark, or does it stay with its word? For example: “That ain’t nothin’,” Joe replied.

Q. Are the commas in the following placed correctly? (The sentence cannot be recast.) “She took a workshop titled, ‘Writer’s Workshop,’ several years ago.” Thank you.