Monday, October 5, 2015


A parenthetical word or phrase “interrupts” the flow of a sentence. However, this interruption may be desired. It can add to the meaning and enhance the style, though from a purely grammatical standpoint, it is nonessential. Remove the parenthetical element and what remains is a complete, grammatically correct sentence.

This element may be a single word, such as “however,” or a phrase. In both cases it should be set off by a pair of commas (before and after), by a set of long dashes, also before and after, or by a pair of parentheses.

·         “Todd tried to make friends at his new school. He was not, however, accepted by his classmates.”
·         “The editor from Forlorn Publishing – who had not expressed the slightest interest in Doug‘s manuscript – was chagrined when she discovered that he was offered a six-figure contract from a rival house.”
·         “The economies of some Eastern European countries (Hungary, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria) have suffered from high unemployment.”

You can identify these elements as parenthetical (i.e., not grammatically essential) by the fact that they can be removed entirely, leaving intact a complete sentence. A similar concept to the parenthetical is the appositive. This is a word or group of words that essentially renames the noun or pronoun that precedes it. It may or may not be set off by a pair of commas, depending on whether it is a restrictive or nonrestrictive appositive. (Don‘t worry – you don‘t have to memorize these definitions, as long as you understand the concept.)

·         “My son, Cornelius, is smart.”

In this sentence, the commas indicate that the writer has just one son and his name happens to be Cornelius. This type of appositive is “nonrestrictive” in that the information within the commas is nonessential – she has only one son so his name is not needed to distinguish him from any other sons, smart or otherwise.

·         “My son Cornelius is smart.”

Here the lack of commas makes this a restrictive appositive because it restricts the discussion to one of multiple sons. Without stating his name, the reader would not be able to tell who is the smart son from among all the dummies. The appositive “Cornelius” is essential to convey the intended meaning.♥

Lisbeth Eng works as a Compliance Officer in the financial industry by day and writes historical romance by night. She holds a bachelor's degree in English, and speaks a smattering of German, Italian and French. Please visit her at

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