In writing, parentheses are useful for adding extra details, explanations, or side notes to your main sentence. They’re simple to use and help your reader understand your message better.
Yet, using parentheses correctly involves following specific punctuation rules. When teaching my students about parentheses, I find that explaining the rules related to end marks and commas assists them in incorporating parentheses into their writing seamlessly.
Firstly, let’s understand what parentheses are and how they function. After that, we’ll explore the fundamental punctuation rules associated with parentheses, along with some easy-to-understand examples.
Using Periods and Parentheses in Simple Writing
In English, periods and parentheses are punctuation marks we often use. A period at the end of a sentence tells us it’s the end. Parentheses, on the other hand, hold extra information or examples. They can be part of a sentence or stand-alone. Knowing when to put periods inside or outside parentheses helps make your writing clear and improves your grammar understanding.
Here’s a simple rule: when the extra information in parentheses is just a part of a sentence, the period goes outside. But if what’s inside the parentheses is a full sentence on its own, the period goes inside the parentheses. This simple guideline makes your writing look better and helps you use punctuation correctly.
Examples of Sentences with Periods Inside Parentheses
Here are four examples where periods are placed inside parentheses because the content within represents a complete sentence:
- “You can borrow the book (I finished it last week).” In this instance, the second sentence provides an explanation, a common function of phrases and sentences in parentheses. It builds upon the first sentence, clarifying why the subject can lend out the book, and the period is enclosed within the parentheses as it completes a full sentence.
- “Come over at six o’clock sharp (It’s a surprise party!).” The parenthetical sentence, concluding with an exclamation point, modifies the first sentence by offering additional context. This clarification explains why the person should arrive on time.
- “To practice formal writing, cite all quoted material using MLA standards (The school moved away from using APA last semester).” Parenthetical sentences typically follow an initial idea-establishing sentence, elaborating on that concept.
- “‘I don’t want to go to the park,’ he said. ‘It’s nearly dark out (Plus it’s cold).’ ” This example illustrates how parentheses can be incorporated within dialogue’s quotation marks. The period and closing parenthesis precede the closing quotation mark.
Examples of Sentences with Periods Outside Parentheses
Using a period outside parentheses in sentences occurs for various reasons. Here are four examples that illustrate this punctuation choice:
- “She’s had many pets (parrots, cats, fish), but she can’t have any in her new apartment.” In this case, the period is placed outside the parentheses since the listed animals are additional information and not a complete sentence. A comma follows the closing parenthesis to separate the two independent clauses.
- “We will be meeting at noon (Mountain Time).” Here, the period is outside the parentheses because the information inside them provides extra details that don’t constitute a full sentence. Parentheses commonly enclose standard details like area codes for phone numbers or time zones. Abbreviations, such as MT or EST, can also be placed within parentheses.
- “Italics are used freely in chapter four (page ninety-nine) to highlight that the character is finally expressing himself.” Using parentheses to convey details, in this example, the parenthetical information specifies the page number of the highlighted passage.
- “For our vacation, we should buy a cooler (I think I lost mine?) and also some spices for cooking.” In this sentence, a parenthetical phrase with a question mark is used to interrupt the text and explain the potential reason for purchasing an item.
The Rule For Using Parentheses Correctly
Parentheses, known as round brackets, are useful for separating extra, and nonessential information from the main part of a sentence. They contribute to providing additional details and clarity for your readers.
For instance: • Sarah is going to the state finals in early June (after winning decisively in districts) to compete against the top performers.
It’s important not to overuse parentheses, as this can result in unclear writing or disrupt the flow of sentences. Ensuring that your readers understand the intent of your writing is crucial, and appropriate punctuation, such as parentheses, can aid in achieving that clarity.
Rule #1: Only Use Parentheses For Information That is Important
When it comes to parentheses, remember this important rule: only use them for information that isn’t crucial to your sentence. This means that if you take out the content inside the parentheses, the main message of your sentence should still make sense.
- Ana finished her essay and could go to the movies with her friends (it took much less time than she expected).
- I thought it was important to be at the school board meeting. Unfortunately, our concerns (we were exhausted by not having any feedback) didn’t get the attention they deserved.
So, when using parentheses, make sure the extra information you include can be easily removed without changing the overall meaning of what you’re trying to say. Keep it simple and clear!
Rule #2: Use Parentheses to Clarify Dates and Lists
Parentheses are a helpful tool for organizing information in sentences. Rule #2 suggests using parentheses to offset numbers and letters representing dates or items in a list. This practice aids in clarity and ensures that readers can easily follow the content.
- The Civil War (1861-1865) stands out as a prolonged and tumultuous period in American history.
- Remember to bring your exam enrollment fee tomorrow: twenty dollars ($20).
- Follow these instructions: (a) sit up, (b) pay attention, and (c) keep your mouth shut.
By applying parentheses to dates and lists, you can enhance the structure of your sentences, making them more coherent and reader-friendly.
Punctuation Rule for Exclamation and Question Marks in Parentheses
When you use exclamation or question marks inside parentheses in a sentence, follow these simple rules. Always put the punctuation at the end of the complete sentence, just before the closing parenthesis. Additionally, remember to capitalize the first word after the opening parenthesis, as it’s treated as a complete sentence.
For instance, consider the following examples:
• Our little league baseball team is going to the Major League playoffs this year, and guess what? (I still can’t believe they chose me as a coach!)
• We recently purchased a new house, and here’s a fun fact to ponder. (Are the neighbors still unaware that we moved in?) The house is located at the end of a cul-de-sac, offering a stunning view of the beautiful lake.
Rule For Using Commas with Parentheses
Understanding the rules for using commas with parentheses is essential, but the good news is that it’s straightforward. Just remember to add a comma after the closing parenthesis when combining two independent clauses. For instance: • His batting average was the best on the team (he worked hard through the off-season), and a local university was scouting him.
This rule ensures clarity and proper punctuation when incorporating information within parentheses into your sentences. It helps readers navigate the text smoothly, making your writing more effective and easier to comprehend. By following this straightforward comma rule, you enhance the coherence of your writing and convey your ideas with precision.