Commas, brackets and dashes

Home learning focus

To use commas, brackets and dashes to make your writing clear.

This lesson includes:

  • two videos

  • three activities


Get moving and watch this video to remind you about brackets, dashes and commas.

Commas, brackets and dashes


Brackets, dashes and commas indicate parentheses (parentheses is the plural of parenthesis).

Parenthesis is a word or clause inserted into a text as an afterthought (or as extra information).

A pair of brackets, commas or dashes can be used to enclose the extra information or afterthought.


  • Commas: ‘The lion, who has sharp teeth, ate his dinner.’ (Commas are used here as the parenthesis is important to the sentence)

  • Brackets: ‘The lion (with a fluffy mane) ate his dinner.’ (Brackets are used here as the parenthesis isn’t vital to the sentence)

  • Dashes: ‘The lion - who wasn’t very cool – ate his dinner.’ (Dashes are used here as the parenthesis is informal)

Watch this video to remind yourself of how commas can be used to make your sentences clear and easy to understand.

How to use commas.

Commas for clarity

Adding a comma can change the meaning of a sentence.

  • Let's eat Callum - We're going to eat Callum.

  • Let's eat, Callum - We're eating with Callum.

Commas to add extra information

In longer sentences, you can use commas to separate out extra information (parenthesis) and make the sentence easier to read.

Commas and clauses

A clause is the building block for a sentence. Commas can be used to break up sentences that have more than one clause and make them easier to read.

  • When Albert saw the food, his tummy started to rumble.

  • Albert got used to the blue spots, but then they started itching.

Both these sentences have a subordinate clause. Subordinate clauses do not make sense on their own because they need the main part of the sentence to make sense, so they are connected with a comma.

When you don’t need a comma

If the clauses make sense on their own, you don’t need to use a comma. For example:

Albert was excited about eating. He wanted to use a knife and fork.


You may need paper and a pen or pencil for some of these activities.

Activity 1

Can you fill in the gaps accurately with commas or full stops?

Remember, commas can be used to:

  • make the meaning of a sentence clear
  • add extra information (parenthesis)
  • connect clauses
  • list items

Activity 2

Watch this clip of Chocolate Cake by Michael Rosen.

'Chocolate Cake' by Michael Rosen
  1. Write a sentence about chocolate cake that includes commas in a list.

Example: Michael needed flour, cocoa, sprinkles and chocolate to bake a cake.

  1. Write a sentence about chocolate cake where a comma has been used to make the sentence meaning clearer.

Example: “Mmmmm cake! Let's eat, Michael!”

  1. Can you write three sentences or a short story to describe Michael’s chocolate cake adventure that uses commas or brackets to add extra information?

Example: Michael, who was an inquisitive ten-year-old boy, LOVED chocolate cake. Interestingly, his favourite type of chocolate cake was chocolate fudge cake (he hates strawberry cakes!).

Top tip!

Remember, a sentence should still make sense if the parenthesis is removed.

Activity 3

You can either print out this activity sheet or write your answers on a piece of paper.

Try this activity to explore using commas, brackets and dashes further.

Brackets, dashes and commas worksheet

Where next?

In this lesson you have learnt about using dashes, commas and brackets.

There are other useful articles on Bitesize to help you to understand more about brackets and commas:

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