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General Writing and Grammar Help/Set off by commas - set off with commas, etc.

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Question
Dear Ted:

Which of the following phrases is/are correct and natural?

1) To set off by commas

2) To set off with commas

3) To set apart by commas

4) To set apart with commas

If all four are possible, do they have the same meaning?

If not, when should I use each of them?

Would you please give me some examples?

Again, many, many thanks for your kind help.

Paolo

Answer
Dear Paolo:

Which of the following phrases is/are correct and natural?

1) To set off by commas

2) To set off with commas

3) To set apart by commas

4) To set apart with commas

If all four are possible, do they have the same meaning?

If not, when should I use each of them?

*** They are all correct and they have the same meaning.  Another frequently used phrase is "To set off, using commas."

EXAMPLES:

An appositive is set off from the rest of the sentence WITH commas.

You can set off a parenthetical phrase BY commas.

Commas are used to SET APART some elements in a sentence FROM the rest of the words.

I used commas to SET APART an idea FROM the remainder of the sentence.  My teacher said that DASHES are more appropriate than COMMAS.

Commas, frequently used to SET OFF parenthetical expressions, should not be overused in your writing.

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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