Punctuation Quiz #13: Punctuation Within Parenthesis

By Mark Nichol

Each of the following sentences is structurally flawed because an interjected word or phrase is not correctly nested within or attached to another phrase that is itself an interruption in the flow of a sentence. Revise the sentences as necessary.

1. We did not want one of our own, a minority no less, to feel offended.

2. The data showed that we were not on track to achieve our goal, nowhere near actually.

3. The most thought-provoking delicacy was, let’s have a drum roll please, Rocky Mountain oysters.

4. Not in years, like more than ten years, have I seen someone so committed to owning the stage.

5. Such pioneers trigger and indeed hope for gentrification — leading to more and more middle-class home buyers being willing to take a chance on the neighborhood.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: We did not want one of our own, a minority no less, to feel offended.
Correct : We did not want one of our own — a minority, no less — to feel offended.

“No less” must be set off from “a minority.” A comma will suffice, but then the four words must also be set off from the base sentence with stronger punctuation — a pair of em dashes.

2.
Original: The data showed that we were not on track to achieve our goal, nowhere near actually.
Correct : The data showed that we were not on track to achieve our goal — nowhere near, actually.

Actually does not refer to a place that the progress was in proximity to; it’s a tag to be attached to “nowhere near,” which, representing a break in thought, should be set off by an em dash.

3.
Original: The most thought-provoking delicacy was, let’s have a drum roll please, Rocky Mountain oysters.
Correct : The most thought-provoking delicacy was — let’s have a drum roll, please — Rocky Mountain oysters.

Please is a tag attached to the phrase “let’s have a drum roll,” so it should be set off from the phrase with a comma; the phrase and the attachment should in turn be distinct from the base sentence.

4.
Original: Not in years, like more than ten years, have I seen someone so committed to owning the stage.
Correct : Not in years — like, more than ten years — have I seen someone so committed to owning the stage.

Like, in this usage, is related to “for example” and should be set off from the following phrase, which, with the tag, constitutes an interjection.

5.
Original: Such pioneers trigger and indeed hope for gentrification — leading to more and more middle-class home buyers being willing to take a chance on the neighborhood.
Correct : Such pioneers trigger — and, indeed, hope for — gentrification, leading to more and more middle-class home buyers being willing to take a chance on the neighborhood.

Indeed is an interjection within an interjection and must be framed by commas, and the larger interjection should be set off from the rest of the sentence. The part of the sentence after gentrification, however, is not a sudden break of thought, and therefore an em dash separating the two clauses is not required.

Click here to get access to 800+ interactive grammar exercises!


Share


Leave a comment: