Parenthetical phrases

Contributor: Nathaniel George

Parenthetical phrases, also known simply as parentheticals, can be a great way to add flow and concision to an essay. In essence, a parenthetical is just a phrase that is not essential to the rest of the sentence. However, just because it isn’t essential does not mean that it isn’t important. When used correctly, a parenthetical can add crucial new information to a sentence without disrupting the flow. 

Below are a few examples of sentences with parenthetical phrases. When you think you’ve got it down, try and identify the parenthetical phrases in the paragraph above. 

Free modifiers

The man’s face, red with rage, twisted into a contorted snarl.

This is an example of a parenthetical phrase called a free modifier. It adds information to a sentence without disrupting the flow and helps the reader better visualize what is happening in the text. Also, observe how the phrase can be omitted without harming the framing of the sentence

Free modifiers can also add information crucial to the development of a story, but still plays no part in the framing of a sentence.

My father, upon looking at my report card, banned me from communicating with my friends.

While the phrase upon looking at my report card is essential to the storyline of the sentence, it’s placement as a parenthetical phrase means that it can be removed without damaging the structure of the sentence.

Introductory phrase

A parenthetical can also be used in the form of an introductory phrase

However, the boy was deemed too short to ride the roller coaster.

To no avail, the boys attempted to cheat on their final exam.

Unfortunately, the robbers had stolen belongings from the safety deposit boxes as well.

In the form of introductory phrases, parentheticals can promote flow from one sentence to the next within an essay. Again, the parenthetical can be omitted while still leaving the sentence intact.

Parenthetical phrases should be an integral component of every writer’s arsenal.