1. Stephen100
    Offline

    Stephen100 New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2012
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0

    Need help using bracketing commas with Parenthetical elemets

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Stephen100, Mar 15, 2012.

    Okay, this is something I'm really confused about:

    We use bracketing commas to set off an interruption to add extra information. Here is an example:

    Television today, some might say, is diabolic.

    The phrase "some might say" is just extra information. However, I have read on websites that when a parenthetical element follows a coordinating conjunction (and, or, but, etc) used to connect two independent clauses, a comma is not put in front of the parenthetical element. Example:

    "The Red Sox were leading the league at the end of May, but of course, they always do well in the spring." (no comma after "but")

    However, in a book written by Stephen King, here is what it says:

    "He also tried very hard to do great works, but, unfortunately, he didn't succeed so well at that."

    In this sentence, it appears that Stephen King has used a comma after the coordinating conjunction "but." Now let me write the sentence again with no comma after "but."

    "He also tried very hard to do great works, but unfortunately, he didn't succeed so well at that."

    Now there is no comma after the word "but." Which one is right, or are they both right? I'm so confused about this. Any advice would be much appreciated.
     
  2. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    Sometimes a comma is a stylistic choice to indicate a pause. I like the way the sentence reads better with the comma after the but. It doesn't have to be there.

    Parenthical commas are perhaps the easiest. They bracket a phrase that can be removed and the sentence still make sense.
    so
    Television today, some might say, is diabolic.
    becomes
    Television today is diabolic.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. Anonym
    Offline

    Anonym Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2010
    Messages:
    292
    Likes Received:
    10
    I'd agree with Elgaisma, in that it's stylistic. Try reading it to yourself, with and without the pause, and decide which works best for each individual sentence. I don't believe one or the other is "right", just a matter of preference and one's authorial voice.
     
  4. Trilby
    Offline

    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,098
    Likes Received:
    69
    Location:
    NE England
    ^ I also agree with Elgaisma.
     
  5. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    Yes, it is partly style, but if you want your aside to stand out, you should put it in between either commas or brackets. That's why they are 'bracketing commas'. Sometimes (at least in long sentences in academic writing) brackets perform a useful function because you want to avoid a thicket of confusing commas.

    Television today, some might say, is diabolical.
    Television today (some might say) is diabolical.
    The Red Sox were leading the league at the end of May, but, of course, they always do well in the spring.
    The Red Sox were leading the league at the end of May, but (of course) they always do well in the spring.
    He also tried very hard to do great works, but (unfortunately) he didn't succeed so well at that.
    He also tried very hard to do great works, but, unfortunately, he didn't succeed so well at that.

    All those bits between the commas/brackets are in the nature of an aside, not exactly 'extra information'. And yes, there are other ways you can punctuate this, depending on where you want the emphasis to fall.
     
  6. BFGuru
    Offline

    BFGuru Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2011
    Messages:
    510
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Somewhere in insomiaville
    Why are we calling parenthesis brackets? Brackets are [xyz]. Parenthesis (xyz).
     
  7. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    ( ) [ ] { } 〈 〉 - are all different styles of brackets. Parenthical Brackets to describe the punctuation about is correct.

    Parenthesis is a grammatically complete sentence that can be enclosed within another sentence and that can be achieved using commas, brackets or dashes.

    Television today, some might say, is diabolic.
    Television today (some might say) is diabolic.
    Television today -- some might say -- is diabolic.

    All three are correct as long as I have the right dash lol

    parentheses can be the phrase contained within the round brackets, but the () are still brackets. For those of us of a certain age they were nine times out of ten just called brackets.
     
  8. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    [xyz] = square/definite brackets
    {xyz} = curly brackets
    (xyz) = brackets/open brackets

    In UK English, all of those are called 'brackets'. We don't refer to them as 'parenthesis'.
     
  9. Nakhti
    Offline

    Nakhti Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2012
    Messages:
    400
    Likes Received:
    16
    In my and many writers' opinion, brackets in creative writing are a stylistic evil to be avoided at all costs. Every one of those sentences looks better without the brackets. In academic essays, brackets serve a purpose, but they clutter story narrative and make it look formal and stilted, IMO. Bracketing commas were invented in order to do away with the eye-jabbingly offensive looking brackets in otherwise elegant prose.

    Now, let me suggest another way to punctuate the example from Stephen King:

    "He also tried very hard to do great works but, unfortunately, he didn't succeed so well at that."

    I think the comma before the 'but' is superfluous, in fact most commas before conjunctions can be deleted. The bracketing commas around 'unfortunately' are the only ones that are needed.

    Then again, that's a godawful plastic pig of a sentence by King. He does sometimes pen some right clangers though.
     
  10. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    ( ) in the US are called 'parentheses' [the plural form of 'parenthesis']

    what i used to set off my 'aside' are called 'brackets' in the US

    and yes, the use of commas as being discussed here is a matter of style, more than rules 'n regs...
     
  11. BFGuru
    Offline

    BFGuru Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2011
    Messages:
    510
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Somewhere in insomiaville
    O.k. so it's a dialect difference. I thought I was missing some new grammar rule. o_O
     

Share This Page