MET workshops

Dealing with parentheses: commas, brackets and dashes

As part of the MET grammar pathway, this workshop furthers participants’ knowledge and confidence with regard to punctuation.

Developer and facilitator: Alan Lounds

Purpose: To explore the use of punctuation for parenthetical expressions.

Description: Expanding on the previous minisession The comma: to pause or to parse?, this three-hour workshop will explore the use of commas in greater depth and will also deal with other punctuation marks that are used to include parenthetical information.

Structure: The workshop will show how the comma has been used throughout history and how it is commonly used in present-day English. The recommendations of punctuation guides will be presented and problematic cases will be discussed. Particular attention will be paid to cases in which the presence or absence of a comma can change the meaning of a sentence – as in restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses. This topic will lead naturally to a presentation of other ways of including parenthetical information: the various types of brackets and dashes. Ample time will be devoted to group exercises and discussion of problematic cases.

Who should attend? Anyone who has ever wondered whether to put in or leave out a comma or whether to use commas, brackets or dashes to set off an expression. Participants of the earlier session on commas will be able to further explore the use of commas through exercises and discussion and – hopefully – resolve their doubts on the choice of punctuation for parenthetical expressions.

Outcome skills: Participants will gain confidence in the use of commas and other markers of parenthetical expressions.

Pre-workshop information: If you wish to contribute to the preparation of the workshop, please send any difficult sentences or queries involving commas and parentheses to Alan Lounds and, if you have a strong opinion on the serial comma, come prepared to argue the case for or against it.
About the facilitator: Alan Lounds retired this year from his post as head of the Language Advisory Unit at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. He continues to work occasionally as a freelance editor and translator and also teaches academic writing. He is a founder member and former chair of Mediterranean Editors and Translators.