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Word for Wednesday: Parenthesis

For the month of March, we are theming our Word for Wednesday blog posts around types of punctuation. Last week we chose the word apostrophe, and our word this week is parenthesis

A parenthesis is a word or phrase inserted into a grammatically-complete sentence as an explanation or afterthought. The sentence would still make sense if the parenthesis was removed.

There are three main punctuation marks used to mark of a parenthesis

  1. Round brackets 
  • Daisy’s parents (Sally and James) are visiting France next month.
  • Spellzone users have access to a variety of word lists (word lists, spelling tests, etc.).

       2. Em dashes (not to be confused with hyphens)

  • Daisy’s parents – Sally and James – are visiting France next month.
  • Spellzone users have access to a variety of resources – word lists, spelling tests, etc.

       3. Commas

  • Daisy’s parents, Sally and James, are visiting France next month.
  • Spellzone users, whether they’re individual subscribers or part of an establishment, have access to a variety of word lists.

The word parenthesis has been used in English since the 1540s and comes from the Middle French ‘parenthèse’, from the Medieval Latin ‘parenthesis’ meaning 'addition of a letter to a syllable in a word’. The Latin derives from the Greek ‘parenthesis’ meaning ‘putting in beside’. From 1715 the meaning of the word grew from referring to just the inserted words to referring to the brackets that were used demark them. In American English, the term parenthesis is often used in place of the word brackets. 

See you next week when we’ll be looking at the word comma.

11 Mar 2020
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