Punctuation: Parentheses

January 12, 2006: Issue 122

When you use parentheses, make sure the rest of the sentence—grammar, punctuation, and context—makes sense without the parenthetical information.

incorrect: Jake (and his three horticulturally inclined daughters) spend all winter dreaming up garden plans.[Subject and verb           don't agree.]
correct: Jake (and his three horticulturally inclined daughters) spends all winter dreaming up garden plans.

incorrect: This fabric repels even the toughest stains (tomato juice, red wine, blood.) [There's no end punctuation.]
correct: This fabric repels even the toughest stains (tomato juice, red wine, blood).

Don’t use initial caps or periods for a complete sentence embedded parenthetically in another sentence.

incorrect: They desperately wanted a place for family meals (The house has no dining room.) and a media room.
correct: They desperately wanted a place for family meals (the house has no dining room) and a media room.

When a complete-sentence parenthetical falls at the end of a sentence, it’s best to break it apart.

acceptable: He’s a champion bargain hunter (his favorite trophy is a $3 armchair).
preferred: He’s a champion bargain hunter. (His favorite trophy is a $3 armchair.)

In many cases, the sentence works just as well without parentheses.

correct: Jake and his three horticulturally inclined daughters spend all winter dreaming up garden plans.
correct: This fabric repels even the toughest stains: tomato juice, red wine, blood.
correct: He’s a champion bargain hunter; his favorite trophy is a $3 armchair.

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