Welcome to Raya's Dungeon

Chamber 01

Raya's Pleasure Palace of Perfect Punctuation
Punching Parenthetical Phrases and Numbing Nubile Numbers


Ever see a naked parenthesis? A dangling participle? A traumatized comma? All of these shocking items will be exposed in....RAYA'S DUNGEON GEON geon on on

Okay, cheesie - but it got your attention...otherwise most people won't come wtihin ten feet of grammar and punctuation guidelines....AHAH! caught you yawning already!

I am only gonna deal with two items today...ones that I see a lot of you writers having trouble with...mostly because I think you don't understand some of the principles behind grammar and/or punctuation. (Or maybe your English teacher was a witch who gave broomsticks a bad name.)

If you keep in mind that almost EVERYTHING in English grammar and punctuation is there as an aid to make the communication clearer, it won't seem like so much guesswork and about as precise as pulling rabbits out of hats.


Everyone knows what parentheses are, right? ( ) - those are parentheses. They are used to separate, modify without being obtrusive, keep the flow and still explain, oh, and yeah, to make smiley faces

There are also other means of creating parenthetical phrases:
- with the double dash --like this--
and with ellipses ...like this... (please note there are ONLY three dots in the ellipse and no spaces on either side)
- a final and very acceptable way is with commas, like this, see?

It is almost like coding. If you start a parenthetical phrase with one of its codes, you must end it with that same code. Thus, if you are wise, you will remember to open and close your parenthetical phrase. The codes, in this case, are either the parentheses ( or ), the double dash (--), the ellipse (...), and the comma (,).

What is a parenthetical phrase? And why should I care? Basically a parenthetical phrase is a modifier...a phrase that increases understanding of whatever it is referring to. How do you know it's a parenthetical phrase? Because, if you take it away from the sentence, the sentence will still stand on its own. And you should care because I said so and will toss you into the deepest...er...because a parenthetical phrase enriches your writing and is a tool to help you create your own unique style.

Polly, wanting a cracker, started to sing. The parenthetical phrase there (in yellow) could be removed and the sentence, although not as rich as with the parenthetical phrase, would still stand alone. You can see that you could substitute any of the other parenthetical signifiers.

Polly (wanting a cracker) started to sing. Doesn't look as good though. Using parentheses for parenthetical phrases makes it seem like you don't really want to come right out and say it. It gives the appearance of being shy...and sometimes disorganized. Which is good, if that is the energy you want to portray.

Polly--wanting a cracker--started to sing. Yeah, it works, but I still prefer commas. This style is a little more abrupt and intrusive.

Polly...wanting a cracker...started to sing. Sounds like a James T. Kirk speech, but it works, better than the other two anyhow, and almost as good as the commas. Shows more hesitancy or pauses before and after the parenthetical phrase.

It depends on the mood you are trying to convey in your writing. Also keep in mind that, whichever set of paranthetical signifiers you use, you don't have to use any others at that point, i.e. you don't need to use parentheses AND commas...one set of signifiers will be enough. Otherwise you are mixing your code up.

I urge you writers to start experimenting. One of the things you are gonna work up is your own unique style. I mostly use commas and ellipses (...) - and that is part of my style. A crisper style might use commas or the double dash (--), and the more scientific style might use the parentheses ( ). Experiment and see which suits you and which suits the mood of the piece you are writing.


I bet you have scratched your head on this one. I know I did before I learned the rule. Anyhow, cutting to the chase, the rule is: with any number between 1 and 10, you generally spell it out, eg: one and ten. Any number AFTER ten, you write in numerals, eg: between 11 and infinity are put as numerals. Again the exception is you generally spell a million, one million, a billion, a zillion. When you are stating an exact number in the upper echelons of numberdom, however, you usually put it as a numeral rather than text, eg: 1,743,299.

There are other exceptions, of course, but these exceptions actually make sense. Almost never start a sentence with a numeral, even if it is above ten, eg: Seventy-six trombones led the big parade (not - 76 trombones led the big parade.). Believe it or not, there is even an exception to this, and that is, if the number is part of a proper name, then you can start the sentence with it (although it is also gently suggested that you rephrase the sentence to avoid this), eg: 10 Downing Street is a very famous address in Great Britain.

The other exception that I can think of to the above rule is if the numbers are in some sort of mathematical equations. You do not write them out then, eg: 2 x 2 = 4 Thus you might say that the giant was over seven feet tall, but in precise measurements, he was 7 ft. 4 in. or 7'4".

3-13-06 Additional comment: It has come to my attention that spelling out all numbers is a matter of style often used in novel writing. It is not wrong to use the numeric form, but it seems to be a preferred method, having to do with the look and the flow of the text in a novel.






























If you have any questions on any of the foregoing,
please write me at raya@twobells.com.

All of the foregoing text is original and copyrighted © 2004 by Raya. All rights reserved. Copying for personal reference only is permitted.