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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Continuing from CS 69: Restrictive vs. Nonrestrictive

CS 69 has raised the complicated issue of restricted vs. nonrestricted.
Here's an example of each kind:
Restrictive: You are not allowed to wear shirts that are loud.
Here, the restrictive phrase is "that are loud." It limits, or restricts, what kind of shirt you're talking about. It is necessary information. The meaning of the sentence changes if you don't include this phrase:
You are not allowed to wear shirts.

Nonrestrictive: The screenwriter's brother, Jonathan, helped write the script.
Here, the nonrestrictive part is "Jonathan," which is surrounded by commas. The meaning of the sentence doesn't change if you leave it out; you lose just additional information:
The screenwriter's brother helped write the script.

In summary, restrictive means necessary to the meaning, and you don't use commas. Nonrestrictive means nonessential--extra--information, and you do surround the phrase in commas.

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