Parentheses

Punctuation Marks

Part 7

Parentheses Punctuation

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What are parenthesis punctuation marks? What is the difference between parenthesis and parentheses punctuation? Where should parentheses punctuation marks be placed in a sentence? What happens if I incorrectly place  parentheses in a sentence? These are some of the questions which will be answered in this workshop. (Please see the punctuation chart in our Introduction to punctuation workshop).

A parenthesis is a tall, curvy punctuation mark used to set off material that isn’t directly related to the main topic, like an afterthought. Parentheses must always be used in pairs. They allow the writer to provide additional information. The material inside the parenthesis might be a single word, a fragment, or multiple complete sentences.

Here are a few examples:

• Sheldon went to the mall (Lenox Mall) to purchase a new winter coat.

• After football practice, Donald loves to eat (New York style) pizza.

Parentheses, despite appearances, are not part of the subject.

Capitalizing and Punctuating Inside Parentheses

Capitalize the first word in a sentence that is enclosed in parentheses, if the word begins a complete sentence. An independent parenthetical sentence requires you to capitalize the first letter. If there are multiple sentences within a pair of parenthesis, each one needs to be capitalized like a regular sentence. The same goes for parenthetical sentences with an exclamation or question mark.

Examples

• Christina was afraid to admit that she stole money out of her mother’s purse. (Lying appeared to be her best option.) She should have been truthful with her mom.

• I need a new pair of tennis shoes (Can you purchase me a new pair?) my old ones are starting to fall apart.

• I like the pink tennis shoes (They are so cool!) but they are way to expensive.

When a parenthetical phrase or sentence interrupts the middle of a sentence, do not capitalize the first letter inside the parentheses unless the word is a proper noun or proper adjective.

Example

• We visited the sequoia groves (definitely a majestic sight to behold) while on vacation in Northern California.

• The pusillanimous police officer (Sergeant Meadows) refused to answer any of the reporters questions.

In the above sentence Sergeant Meadows is capitalized within the parentheses because it is a proper noun. 

• Adongo is a tall, swarthy, prepossessing model (an African man), who descended from Africa to the United States of America.

In the above sentence African = proper adjective

The first letter in a parenthetical question or exclamation is always capitalized:

Example

Correct

• We saw the beautiful sequoia trees (Have you ever seen one?) while on vacation in Northern California.

Incorrect

• We saw the beautiful sequoia trees (have you ever seen one?) while on vacation in Northern California.

If the part in parentheses is several sentences long, or if it uses special punctuation, like a question mark or exclamation point, the punctuation goes inside the parentheses:

Example

• Glenda was worried that Michelle was going to be late for the party (but she prayed, she wouldn’t be late!).

In the above example punctuation is required both inside and outside parentheses.

Note the exclamation mark within the parentheses. The period after the parentheses is necessary to bring the entire sentence to a close.

One common issue writers have is how to punctuate parentheses properly, specifically whether to use a comma before or after parentheses. Do not place a comma before a parenthesis. Place a comma after the closing parenthesis only if the sentence needs a comma. Generally speaking commas should be placed outside the parentheses.

Example

Correct

• After the cake was baked (and cooled), Susan cut a large slice and ate it.

Incorrect

• After the cake was baked, (and cooled) Susan cut a large slice and ate it.

Also note that the comma would be necessary even if the parentheses were removed, because it joins a dependent and independent clause:

• After the cake was baked and cooled, Susan cut a large slice and ate it.

When parentheses are used in the middle of a sentence, you place the punctuation – usually a comma – after the parenthetical phrase or word.

Example

Correct

• When she purchased the very expensive new perfume ($200 cash), the salesman gave her a receipt along with a free bottle of inexpensive perfume.

Incorrect

• When she purchased the very expensive new perfume, ($200 cash) the salesman gave her a receipt along with a free bottle of inexpensive perfume.

If the entire sentence is parenthetical, place the period or other punctuation mark inside the parentheses.

Example

• Don’t read the comments written on your social media page. (It will only upset you.)

• Charlie (our twelve-pound cat) tracked car oil all over the outdoor rugs on the front porch. (Sorry, Mom.)

• You are late (aren’t you?).

In the above example punctuation is required both inside and outside parentheses.

Note the question mark within the parentheses. The period after the parentheses is necessary to bring the entire sentence to a close.

• You are late (aren’t you?).

If the parenthetical phrase is part of the sentence, put the punctuation outside the parentheses.

Examples

• Don’t read the comments written on your social media page (It will only upset you).

• Tom felt horrible (perhaps he drank too much alcohol).

Special Uses of Parentheses

Area codes in phone numbers should be punctuated with parentheses.

Example

• (777) 666-8888

Year of Birth

Example

• Frederick Douglass (1818 – 1895) was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman.

Acronyms

Examples

• Daphany’s Free Online Writing Workshop (dfoww).

• The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Remember use parenthetical statements sparingly, for supplementary information or an afterthought. Don’t overwhelm your readers with them!

This concludes the workshop on parentheses. Please go back and re-read the information contained in this workshop, before completing the parentheses worksheet.

After you have re-read the information in this workshop, test your knowledge on the parentheses punctuation mark. Please complete the worksheet titled, Parentheses Worksheet. You’ll find it on our website. At the top of the page, just click on the menu section and then select Worksheets.

If you have any questions, please feel free to post your questions in the section below titled Leave a Reply/Leave a Comment. In the comment section below, a member of our teaching staff will provide helpful feedback to any question related to this workshop.

We hope you enjoyed this workshop!

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