Properly Punctuated: Parentheses, ( )

Posted December 14, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Properly Punctuated, Self-Editing, Writing

While it is useful to know how to use parentheses within a sentence, the most common problems writers encounter is how to punctuate when parentheses are involved.

Properly Punctuated is…

…the proper use of quotation marks, commas, semicolons, colons, ellipsis, etc., including how to properly mark dialog, ahem. As Properly Punctuated is in no way complete, I would appreciate suggestions and comments from anyone…

If you’d like to track it, bookmark this page — and consider sharing this Properly Punctuated tidbit with friends by tweeting it.

(Parenthesis is the singular)
Credit to:
Punctuation: ( )
Definition: A pair of signs used in writing to mark off an interjected explanatory or qualifying remark without otherwise affecting the sentence. They may also be used to indicate separate groupings of symbols in mathematics and symbolic logic, etc.


Rule: Enclose short selections of interrupting elements that add information or identification that generally minimize the emphasis to the separated text.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has a strong lobby in Washington.

I walked right up to him (nobody was with him at the time) and told him what we had decided.

Rule: Enclose figures or letters when used for in creating a list within a sentence.
Each essay will be judged on the basis of its (a) length, (b) artistic merit, and (c) originality.

NOTE: You could also use a) or 1).

Contemporary Rule: Parentheses placed before and after an interrupter when used in the middle of a sentence
Queen Victoria was (as they say) a formidable woman.

So let’s beat back this unnecessary, unfair and (let’s not mince words) cruel attack on working Americans.

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Punctuating with Parentheses
Back-to-Back Parentheses
(xx) (xx)
APA: Do not use back-to-back parentheses. Include everything in one set and use a semicolon to separate the the information.

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various leadership theories (e.g., chaos, relational; Northouse, 2006)
Comma Placed After Ending ) Rule: In a series, the comma is after the ending parenthesis

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I picked up a Bernard Cornwell, the latest David Weber (it’s an Honor Harrington!), and a Laurell K. Hamilton.
Ending Punctuation is Outside () Rule: At the end of the sentence, the period / question / exclamation mark is outside the ending parenthesis.

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Derek asked me out (but he’s such a jerk).
Ending Punctuation is Inside () Rule: Encloses a complete sentence, the ending punctuation is inside the ending parenthesis.

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Derek asked me out. (He is such a jerk.)
Multiple Sentences in () Rule: Within a sentence AND the enclosed parenthetical text is more than one sentence, punctuate everything but the last sentence (inside the parentheses).

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The instructions (Place tab A in the slot. Leave tab B alone) were confusing (Live Write Thrive).