How to Use an Interrupter

“Hey, what’s your name?” In this example, the exclamation of “hey” acts as an interrupter. The part following the comma is the independent clause that makes up the basic sentence. An interrupter can be any one of a wide rage of phrases that interrupts the surrounding sentence.

Using an interrupter can help to make your expressions more specific by providing extra details or even make your sentences sound more like speech by enabling you to use natural expressions.

How do you use interrupters?

Just like the meaning of the word on which the name is based (“interrupt”), interrupters break in to the middle of a sentence, inserting one idea into another. Consider this example:

Maggie, as you know, is planning to go abroad next year.

The part offset by commas, “as you know”, sounds very natural — like English speech. However, it is unnecessary to the meaning of the sentence. If you were to write the sentence without the interrupter (“Maggie is planning to go abroad next year.”) it would still make sense and follow all of the grammar rules. As a result, you can tell that interrupters are a stylistic tool rather than a necessary component of grammar.

Punctuation

Interrupters can come in many forms, long or short, and can appear in different places in the sentence. The opening example had an interrupter of only one word that appeared at the beginning of the sentence, followed by a comma.

Hey, what’s your name?

Any time an interrupter comes at the very beginning of a sentence, it should be separated from the main idea (the independent clause) with a comma, as above.

If it appears in the middle, place commas both before and after the interrupter. This is called “offsetting” the phrase with commas.

One option is always just to get in the car and drive.
Planning first, on the other hand, ensures that everything will go smoothly.

It is also possible that the interrupter could come at the end of the sentence, and in that case, place a comma before the phrase.

Having fun is the most important part of the trip, all the same.

Intensity

Ordinarily, commas will be used to distinguish a simple interrupter from the rest of the sentence; however, em dashes can also be used if the interrupting phrase holds more important meaning. Using dashes to mark an interrupter indicates more emphasis. The rules for placing these dashes is the same as for commas. Take a look at this example:

Planning first — in order to avoid unexpected difficulties — ensures that everything will go more smoothly.

The interrupter that was used before, “on the other hand”, does not have significant enough meaning to be used with dashes — this phrase expresses the relationship between the sentences (“on the other hand” = “this opposes that”) but introduces no new ideas of its own. When using a dash, as in the previous sentence, the interrupter should add some idea to the sentence.

Parentheses may also be used for some interrupters. All parenthetical statements act as interrupters, but not all interrupters can be parenthetical statements.

{Parenthetical Statements} ⊊ {Interrupters}

If the interrupter comes first in the sentence, for example, it might be awkward to use parentheses. You would not want to write “(Hey) what’s your name?” This would be a very unnatural way to write English.

If the idea in the interrupter is secondary to the meaning of the sentence — something you would say to better set the context — then parentheses might be a good idea. Of the previous examples, it would only work well with this one:

Maggie (as you know) is planning to go abroad next year.

Related Topics

Appositives, which are used to re-state the name or identity of something, are also a form of interrupter. You can learn more about them in the article “How to Use an Appositive”. Here is a quick example:

My cat, Felix, loves to climb.

Likewise, nouns of direct address act as interrupters. These are instances where the name of the person being spoken to is included in the sentence, though it plays no grammatical role in the sentence itself.

Sarah, you shouldn’t sing musicals at midnight.

The name “Sarah” belongs to the person you are speaking directly to. However, it does not have a role in the independent clause and so acts as an interrupter.

Lastly, non-restrictive relative clauses also act as interrupters. Check the article “Restrictive and Non-Restrictive Relative Clauses” to learn more. In the mean time, here’s an example.

This day, which is filled with warmth and sunlight, would be so good for a picnic.

Practice Time!

Add the appropriate punctuation to the sentences below. Decide whether commas, dashes, or parentheses would be best to distinguish the interrupter (written in bold), and also indicate whether the interrupter is a general phrase (G), an appositive (A), a direct address (DA), or a relative clause (RC). Check your answers at the end of the page!

Example: The school year, which will be so busy, is just starting! (RC)

  1. James please hand me that book.
  2. The summer which is such a good time to be outside is the best time to go to the beach.
  3. This class can only be taken in the fall by the way.
  4. Studying English an important task if you want to travel internationally takes a lot of time and effort.
  5. I really hoped my friend the one I met last year would be able to visit.
  6. My favorite bookstore Aladin is open until 10pm.
  7. Movies and music are also a good way to study English you can learn a lot of vocabulary.
  8. My school which has exams every month requires a lot of writing.
  9. If you call first Emma I can meet you when you arrive.
  10. Wait what did you say again?

Did you find this helpful? Check us out at www.Ediket.com! Ediket is an online proofreading / copy editing platform that connects qualified English editors to people who need help with their writing. You write, we complete!

Ediket only costs $5 per page and takes around 30 minutes, so your writing can be perfect, even on a budget or with a deadline.


Answers:

  1. James, please hand me that book. (DA)
  2. The summer, which is such a good time to be outside, is the best time to go to the beach. (RC)
  3. This class can only be taken in the fall, by the way. (G)
  4. Studying English — an important task if you want to travel internationally — takes a lot of time and effort. (G)
  5. I really hoped my friend (the one I met last year) would be able to visit. (G)
  6. My favorite bookstore, Aladin, is open until 10pm. (A)
  7. Movies and music are also a good way to study English — you can learn a lot of vocabulary. (G)
  8. My school, which has exams every month, requires a lot of writing. (RC)
  9. If you call first, Emma, I can meet you when you arrive. (DA)
  10. Wait, what did you say again? (G)

2 thoughts on “How to Use an Interrupter

Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: