Put it in parentheses (please)

Next in our series on the proper use of punctuation marks is that curved couplet, parentheses (who doesn’t love this digression-inducing duo?).

Following are some of the most common things that should be put in parentheses:

Information that is not essential to a sentence

Anyone who loves dark chocolate (myself included) was thrilled to learn of its health benefits.

A word or phrase that clarifies an ambiguous pronoun

John and Andy enjoyed their summer vacations.

“He (Andy) traveled to visit his family,” she explained.

A word or phrase that translates technical and obscure terms

The man was diagnosed with glioblastoma (brain tumor).


Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson


She writes for the Auburn (Mass.) News.

A note on punctuation

If the copy in parentheses appears within a sentence: Do not use a capital letter or period to punctuate that copy, even if the copy is a complete sentence. However, feel free to use a question mark or exclamation point when appropriate.

See the first sentence of this post for an example.

If the copy in parentheses is written as a separate sentence: Punctuate it as if it were a separate sentence.

The couple traveled to Hawaii to celebrate their 25th anniversary. (You may recall that they went there on their honeymoon.)

See also:

17 Responses to “Put it in parentheses (please)”

  1. Decker
    July 29th, 2008 | 3:10 pm

    I always wondered how that worked. Thanks Beck (jerk)!

  2. July 29th, 2008 | 3:25 pm

    You’re welcome, D. I’m happy to spread the grammar love. (Now leave me alone! :) )

  3. July 29th, 2008 | 3:37 pm

    Were you reading something that prompted this? :)

    I most often find that people confuse comma, dash, and parenthetic use.

  4. July 29th, 2008 | 3:44 pm

    steph: LOL. I swear just read your post now! Excellent use of parentheses, by the way. But what else did I expect from a copyeditor? ;)

  5. July 29th, 2008 | 7:11 pm

    Well, but when I read your post, I thought, gee, I hope I’ve been using mine right! Copyeditor or not, I still make the silliest mistakes sometimes!

  6. July 29th, 2008 | 7:13 pm

    Hahaha! Holy moly, did I EVER use parentheses! All over the place!

  7. July 29th, 2008 | 8:29 pm

    steph: LOL. you really did use them A LOT. :D

  8. July 30th, 2008 | 3:43 pm

    Great post! When it comes to writing for clients the proper grammar switch turns on effortlessly. However, when I look at my blog posts I am sometimes horrified by the things I write! We all need these reminders so that the “switch” does not ever turn off by accident (or laziness). :-)

  9. July 30th, 2008 | 4:16 pm

    Thanks, Karen — and thanks for dropping by! I think we writers all benefit from these little grammar refreshers every now and again — and of course, so do our clients!

  10. July 30th, 2008 | 4:47 pm

    Your post made me realize that parentheses are really overlooked in discussions about punctuation (and I happen to be really fond of them). I like when they’re used to generate a unique writer’s voice, as when a writer uses them frequently to insert asides into the text.

  11. July 30th, 2008 | 8:46 pm

    Melissa — I’m with you: I think parentheses are a great way for writers to get their individual voices heard.

  12. July 31st, 2008 | 12:05 pm

    Thanks for the tips.

    I always get mixed up with punctuation in parantheses.

    The sentence right now, for example (where does the period go after the question mark?).

  13. July 31st, 2008 | 12:05 pm

    Next post, explain semi-colons.

    (I can never get those little bastards right!)

  14. July 31st, 2008 | 12:54 pm

    @Friar: Nice work with the parentheses, question mark, and period. I wonder how many punctuation marks one can use in a row (while staying grammatically correct). Sounds like a challenge …

    Yikes - the dreaded semicolon. I’ll tackle it next week.

  15. August 3rd, 2008 | 1:58 pm

    […] Put it in parentheses (please) at SmithWriting Blog […]

  16. August 3rd, 2008 | 4:25 pm

    At least we’re not writing in French.

    With the accents aigus and accents graves, and having to know the noun’s #@$&! GENDER. Not to mention deciding which is the 126 different tenses to use to conjugate the verbs.

    (I used to know how to do that shit…but my brain mercifully control-alt-deleted that part of my RAM)

  17. August 4th, 2008 | 8:26 am

    @Friar: Funny you bring up French … I actually majored in French in college (double major with English). I loved it — and I was pretty good at it too! But since I haven’t used any French since I graduated, I, like you, have lost most of it.

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