Commas for Parenthesis
Using Commas for a ParenthesisCommas can be used to separate a parenthesis from the rest of the sentence. (A parenthesis is additional information that is not essential to the meaning of the sentence, i.e., it could be removed.)
It is also possible to use dashes or parentheses (brackets) to offset a parenthesis. Commas, parentheses, and dashes are types of parenthetical punctuation.
Examples of Commas Used as Parenthetical PunctuationIn each example below, the parenthesis is shaded:
- The second boat in the race, the 6-berth Kontarka, was crewed by local school children.
- Mr. Tommy Millar, 36, was jailed for robbing his father's grocery store.
- James, a 23-year-old beggar from Boston, left his 4-million-pound mansion to live on the streets.
- Last year's pizza-eating champion who works with my brother came in here and ate two loaves of bread in one sitting. (This is wrong because "who works with my brother" should be separated from the remainder of the sentence using one of the types of parenthetical punctuation, e.g., commas.)
- Critics search for ages for the wrong word, which, to give them credit, they eventually find. (Actor Peter Ustinov)
A Parenthesis Is Not Always Mid-SentenceA parenthesis is not always mid-sentence. For example:
- They will be taking Jamie, a young man from London. (When a parenthesis ends a sentence, only one comma (or dash) is needed to offset it. (Obviously, if parentheses (brackets) are used, then both the open bracket and the close bracket are needed.)
You Must End Your Parenthesis!
- Mr Tommy Millar, 36 was jailed for robbing his father's grocery store.
- Critics search for ages for the wrong word, which, to give them credit they eventually find.
- Mr Tommy Millar (36 was jailed for robbing his father's grocery store. (A mistake with parentheses (brackets) is extremely rare. It is most often seen with commas.)
Choose Your Parentheses to Assist Your ReaderAlthough the use of commas as parenthetical punctuation makes for a normal-looking sentence, commas can become confused with other commas in the sentence. For example:
- Last night, Josie, an escaped wallaby from London Zoo, attacked two young sisters, Rebecca and Josie, which is pure coincidence, Evans, in a bid to steal their crisps. (Although grammatically correct, the writer could have used a mixture of parenthetical punctuation to make the sentence clearer.)
- Last night, Josie (an escaped wallaby from London Zoo) attacked two young sisters – Rebecca and Josie (which is pure coincidence) Evans – in a bid to steal their crisps.