Interrupter Commas

Common Interrupters

Interrupters are modifiers or appositives that comment upon a noun. We enclose them in commas because they are additional information not essential to the meaning of the main clause. The modifiers come in a number of different forms:

Adjective Clauses: Sally, whom you met at last night's dance, wants to know if you found her purse.

Participial Phrases: Mr. Duffy, named as college counselor in 1985, has been promoted to Duke of Students.

Adjective Phrases: Fred, green with envy, refused to acknowledge Harvey's mastery of the game of Yahtze.

Noun appositives look like this:

Jim, sheriff of Monro County, wanted to question the witness.

Noun appositives are noun phrases that rename a noun.

The trick with these phrases and clauses is that they should be enclosed in commas only if they are non-restrictive or non-essential. This means only if they are not vital to the meaning of the sentence. If the phrase and claused helps to single out one of many possibilities, then it is vital to the meaning of the sentence:

Essential: The girl whom you met at the dance last night wants to know if you found her purse.
[This clause is essential because it singles out one girl from all the girls at the dance.]

Non-Essential: Jane, whom you met at the dance last night, wants to know if you found her purse.
[This clause is non-essential because it does not single out one girl. We know from the start that Jane is the girl.]

Test makers will make it very clear whether a clause or phrase is essential or non-essential because often the punctuation determines the meaning:

#1: Boys who act like jerks never win.
#2: Boys, who act like jerks, never win.

One of these sentences claims that all boys are jerk. The other asserts that only jerky boys don't win. Do you know which is which? Well, #2 makes the all-encompassing claim that all boys are jerks.

OTHER INTERRUPTERS:

A number of other types of expressions also interrupt the flow of main clauses:

Transitional Expressions: He must, of course, pay his fine. He will, however, serve his time. We have, therefore, been vindicated.

Expressions Identifying Speakers or Source: The game, as you remember, was a tie. A new method of scoring, we decided, was necessary.

Expression of Direct Address: Madam, your package has arrived. We are ready, Ms. Wright, to deliver it.

Interrupters that must be set off by commas are those which are to the meaning of the main clause.

Phrases and clauses that single out one among many are and do not have commas around them.

Quiz

1. Fill in the blank: Interrupters that must be set off by commas are those which are _________ to the meaning of the main clause.
A. related
B. non-essential
C. essential

2. Fill in the blank: Phrases and clauses that single out one among many are essential and _________ have commas around them.
A. must
B. must not

3. "Have you seen the bike that Bill rode in the race?"
A. This sentence is correct.
B. This sentence has an interrupter comma error.

4. "Our son Mel who won last year's prize was disqualified from the competition."
A. This sentence is correct.
B. This sentence has an interrupter comma error.

5. "Fred, famous for his banjo playing was a hit at the party."
A. This sentence is correct.
B. This sentence has an interrupter error.

6. Find the error:At the rally thea organizer asked thoseb students whoc supported the referendum to wear green asd a symbol of their solidarity. No Errore
A.   B.   C.   D.   E.  

7. Find the error: The local newspaper nameda as one of the best inb the country was having ac hard time becaused subscriptions were low. No Errore
A.   B.   C.   D.   E.  

8. How could one correct: "At last I met Dr. Snerd the radiologist who had saved Mrs. Pasco's life and was able to thank her for her efforts."
A. At last I met Dr. Snerd the radiologist who had saved Mrs. Pasco's life
B. At last, I met Dr. Snerd the radiologist whose saving of Mrs. Pasco's life
C. At last I met the radiologist, Dr. Snerd, who saved Mrs. Pasco's life
D. At last meeting Dr. Snerd, the radiologist saved Mrs. Pasco's life
E. At last I met Dr. Snerd, the radiologist who had saved Mrs. Pasco's life,

9. How could one correct: "Salmon which had not been a big favorite with the Fleisher's children, became popular after the family took a trip to Seattle."
A. Salmon which had not been a big favorite
B. Salmon which had not been favored
C. Salmon, not being a big favorite
D. Salmon, which had not been a big favorite
E. Salmon which was no big favorite

10. "The anger of the carpenter, who represents the native peoples who live in the country, is seen through his thoughts and emotions."
A. This sentence is correct.
B. This has an interrupter error.

of ten right