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Dan Dorman

"If you use commas, your readers will not slow down very much. They will slow down more for dashes, and even more for parentheses."

Is that (causing the reader to slow down) the only guide to determine the use of commas vs. dashes vs. parentheses in setting aside explanatory clauses? As in the last sentence, would dashes have been a better choice? Or is it just generally better to avoid that kind of structure?

Crawford Kilian

Sometimes you can switch from one kind of punctuation to another for sheer variety. The New Yorker magazine used to be famous for using commas to excess. They drew attention to themselves, distracting readers from the content of the sentence.

So occasional dashes or parentheses might have helped keep readers attentive.

Sometimes it's just a matter of style. I like to use semicolons. But if I have two or three sentences using semicolons in every paragraph, I'll distract my readers.

So I force myself to break such sentences in two—or I use a dash to link the sentences. Even then, I have to be careful—dashes are like duct tape. You can attach all kinds of clauses and phrases with dashes—but the result is pretty ugly—isn't it?

Aleksey Gureev

I have one question regarding the usage of commas in the following sentences:

#1 Crawford Kilian, a Canadian English teacher, runs a blog.

#2 A Canadian English teacher, Crawford Kilian, runs a blog.

It's quite clear why we use commas in #1 -- because it's a optional non-identifying clause and we can omit it.

The second sentence requires your name to identify the Canadian teacher. You can't say:

A Canadian English teacher, who is Crawford Kilian, runs a blog.

This is why I think that it should be:

A Canadian English teacher Crawford Kilian runs a blog.

Am I mistaken?

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