Posts Tagged parenthetical expressions

Commas with Parenthetical Expressions

RULE AA:
Separate parenthetical expressions with commas.

Definition of Parenthetical Expression. These are expressions that do not add essential content for understanding the sentence, such as an off-topic comment or a phrase inserted in a sentence that breaks the flow of the idea. These expressions may be placed in parentheses; hence the name.

Rule AA is something of a catch-all, a grammatical version of “other duties as assigned.” Many phrases and clauses are considered parenthetical expressions, including appositives, direct addresses, interpolated asides, and interjections.

Basically, any expression, description, comment, etc. that interrupts the flow of ideas, that can be moved around in the sentence, and that can be placed in parentheses without confusing the reader needs to be separated from the rest of the sentence with commas.

Sample 12.1.   The new mall, I have heard, will be huge.

In sample 12.1, the parenthetical expression is I have heard. This is not part of the idea being expressed in the sentence. It can be moved to the front or end of the sentence. And it could be placed in parentheses. As such, it is separated from the rest of the sentence with commas, one before and one after. Also, if I had written it at the end of the sentence, I would still need to separate it from the rest of the sentence.

Sample 12.2.   This economic forecast model, compared to other models, shows flat growth.

In sample 12.2, the parenthetical expression is compared to other models. Wherever I put it in the sentence, it will need to be separated by commas.

Sample 12.4.   Compared to other models, this economic forecast model shows flat growth.
Sample 12.5.   This economic forecast model shows flat growth, compared to other models.

Sample 12.4 uses the parenthetical expression as an introductory adverbial phrase (Rule G), and sample 12.5 uses it as a non-grammatical final description (Rule X). Because it is a parenthetical expression, no matter where it is in the sentence, it needs to be separated from the rest of the sentence with commas.


Need help with commas? Get Zen Comma, an instructive reference guide on the 17 major uses and misuses of commas, available in PDF and Kindle formats. Read more about Zen Comma.

Your Writing Companion: Our e-book with samples from each of our writing guides: Get the free e-book (PDF, 45 pages) or purchase the Kindle version ($0.99).

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Comments

Commas with Titles and Names

You just wrote a letter to Mr. Wilson, a business contact. Now, before you send it, you proofread it. Of course, you pay particular attention to the commas because most punctuation errors are comma errors.

Commas with Names

Let’s look at three of the sentences you wrote.

Wrong: “Mr. Wilson I am sure you will recognize the benefits of this plan.”
Wrong: “When you receive the package Mr. Wilson, please let me know.”
Wrong: “Thank you for your time Mr. Wilson.”

Each of these sentences has  the same type of error: missing commas.

Zen Comma Rule M tells us “When directly addressing someone, place commas around his or her name.” The sample sentences above didn’t do this, and they are, as a result, incorrect.

The letter is to Mr. Wilson. You are directly addressing him by name. You need to separate the name from the rest of the sentence because the name is interrupting the flow of the sentence. In this way, the name is a type of parenthetical expression, and, like all parenthetical expressions, it needs to be set apart with commas.

The first one is easy to fix. You just need to add a comma after the name, as follows.

Right: “Mr. Wilson, I am sure you will recognize the benefits of this plan.”

The second sentence is a bit more complicated. It already has a comma after the name. Maybe you put in that comma to follow Zen Comma Rule G: Put a comma after introductory clauses and phrases. Maybe you followed the risky and often mistaken strategy of putting a comma where you pause. You paused after the name and put in a comma, but you might not pause before the name. The comma you added is correct, but to make the sentence correct, you also need one before the name, as follows.

Right: “When you receive the package, Mr. Wilson, please let me know.”

The final sentence is also pretty easy. You just need to add a comma before the name to separate it from the rest of the sentence:

Right: “Thank you for your time, Mr. Wilson.”

Commas with Titles

Mr. Wilson is a doctor and the chairman of you community organization. Because you are using his titles (i.e., doctor, chairman), you might need commas here, too.

Using commas with titles is the same as using commas with names. You need to decide whether you are using the title as a name. If you are addressing someone by his or her title, or if the title is part of the name, then you use commas as above. Otherwise, you don’t need the commas (and probably not capital letters). Here are two more sentences you wrote.

Wrong: “Doctor I saw you leaving your neighbor’s house after midnight.”
Wrong: “If I were you Mr. Chairman I would contact my lawyers.”

In both sentences, you are addressing Mr. Wilson directly. Rather than using his name, you are using his title. These sentences also need commas, as seen here.

Right: “Doctor, I saw you leaving your neighbor’s house after midnight.”
Right: “If I were you, Mr. Chairman, I would contact my lawyers.”

Summary

That’s all you need to know about this type of comma use. If you are directly addressing the reader by name or title, put the name or title in commas.


Dont forget: Through December 31, 2011, all our writing guides are available at a 25% discount! Use code DASHER during checkout. More here.

Need help with commas? Get Zen Comma, an instructive reference guide on the 17 major uses and misuses of commas, available in PDF and Kindle formats. Read more about Zen Comma.

Your Writing Companion: Our e-book with samples from each of our writing guides: Get the free e-book (PDF, 45 pages) or purchase the Kindle version ($0.99).

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Bumbo Learns about Absolute Phrases

 The Koan

After years of study, Bumbo had reached the level of comma apprentice and was allowed to carry his own red pen. Now, faced with a more challenging concept, he was confused.

“Teacher,” he asked, “how can I understand absolute phrases?”

His teacher asked in response, “What is the universe?”

“It’s what is all around us,” Bumbo replied, still confused.

The teacher nodded sagely and said, “Meditate on the universe, and you will be enlightened.”

The Meaning of the Koan

When Bumbo thinks a bit, he realizes that the universe, by definition, contains everything in it. In that way, the universe defines everything it contains, not just one thing. The teacher wants Bumbo to apply this idea to absolute phrases, which describe everything in the sentence and not just one word.

Once Bumbo understands this, he will understand absolute phrases, and he will realize that he needs to separate them with commas to prevent the reader from thinking they are associated with any one part.

Examples of Absolute Phrases

Correct Examples:

The meeting finished, the committee members left for lunch.
Bob set his phone down, its battery dead.
The neighbor’s music still blaring, Julia called the cops.

As you can see from these examples, the absolute phrase (underlined) describe the entire situation described in the main sentence. Also, notice that the absolute phrases are separated from the main sentence with a comma.

This follows Zen Comma Rule AB: Separate absolute phrases with commas.

Further Explanation of the Terms

Absolute phrase. An absolute phrase modifies, or describes, the entire sentence, not any particular word in the sentence. It contains a noun and a participle, and it may contain additional descriptive terms.

Participle. A participle is a form of a verb being used as an adjective. It is not a complete verb. For example, burning is used as a participle in the burning building. It describes building, and it cannot be used as a verb unless you add another verb, such as is or were, as in The building is burning.


Need help with commas? Get Zen Comma, an instructive reference guide on the 17 major uses and misuses of commas, available in PDF and Kindle formats. Read more about Zen Comma.

Your Writing Companion: Our e-book with samples from each of our writing guides: Get the free e-book (PDF, 45 pages) or purchase the Kindle version ($0.99).

, , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Broken Pair of Commas

Some commas, like socks, always come in pairs. Like bookends. Commas that generally come in pairs include

  • commas around embedded quotations (Rule AG),
  • commas around titles (Rule AF),
  • commas around absolute phrases (Rule AB),
  • commas around non-restrictive phrases and clauses starting with who and which (Rule U),
  • commas around interpolated asides (Rule L), and
  • commas around appositives (Rule J).

I found a whopper of a boo-boo today in which the writer needed a pair of commas but only used one. He used the first comma of a pair but forgot the second comma.

Here’s the sentence with the missing comma.

The five cups, believed to date from the late 17th or early 18th century were valued at $1-$1.5 million on Saturday after being brought to the TV show at a stop in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (http://tv.yahoo.com/blog/chinese-rhino-cups-set-antiques-roadshow-record–3352)

The phrase “believed to date from the late 17th or early 18th century” is a parenthetical expression. A parenthetical expression is a phrase or clause that is not part of the main point of the sentence, can be removed without making the sentence ungrammatical, and provides some supplemental description.

Read the rest of this entry »

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,284 other followers