Common Core L.6.2.A states students should use punctuation (commas, parentheses, dashes) to set off nonrestrictive/parenthetical elements. So, is there a difference in the three? Some resources say no. Others say yes. This post will list the rules pointing out the differences in the three, so you can decide.
Nonrestrictive vs. Restrictive Elements
First you need to understand the meanings of nonrestrictive and restrictive elements.
Nonrestrictive elements are groups of words that can be removed from the sentence without changing its meaning. The sentence would still make sense without the parenthetical element. Nonrestrictive elements add extra information that is nonessential.
Restrictive elements are necessary to retain the meaning of the sentence.
The two largest land animals on the earth – the African elephant and the giraffe – are herbivores.
The appositive (the African elephant and the giraffe) is a nonrestrictive element. You can remove it from the sentence, and the sentence makes sense. The phrase adds extra information that is nonessential to the meaning of the sentence. — The two largest land animals on the earth are herbivores.
All students who do their work should pass easily.
If you remove the clause – who do their work – from this sentence it changes the meaning. The clause is important because not all students will pass, only those who do their work will pass. Because of this, the clause is restrictive.
Parentheses, commas, or dashes separate the rest of the sentence from the parenthetical element. YOU MUST use the same punctuation on each side of the parenthetical element. You will not mix dashes with commas or parenthesize with dashes. SO, if you use commas, use 2 and so on.
Eight Types of Parenthetical Elements
|direct address – the name of the person who is being directly spoken to
appositive – nouns or phrases that rename preceding nouns or phrases
participial phrases – verb-based phrases that describe (modify) nouns or pronouns
clarification – words that make an idea, statement, etc. clear or intelligible
- The town where I live (Blowing Rock) is a tourist destination in the mountains of North Carolina.
i.e. and e.g. – phrases beginning with e.g. (for example) or i.e. (in other words)
- I like chocolate, i.e., the creamy sweet that melts in your mouth.
- I like chocolate, e.g., Swiss milk chocolate, white chocolate, sweet chocolate, and even chocolate milk.
explanation – something (such as a statement or fact) that explains something
- The school year (this year that’s August 3 – May 25) includes 180 school days.
interjection – word, phrase, or sound used to convey an emotion such as surprise, excitement, happiness, or anger
- We’re having a snow day, yippee!
a joke or play on words
- Energizer Bunny arrested – charged with battery.
- The knight (Sir Render) was afraid to fight.
- The sleeping bull (not bull-dozer) woke up and charged.
When to Use Commas, Parentheses, and Dashes
Add Comment with Commas
De-emphasize Comments with Parentheses
Emphasize Comments with Dashes