Parentheses With Other Punctuation

Punctuation

Following up on posts using colonsellipsis marks, and semicolons in sentences, here’s a quick primer on using parentheses, which generally enclose nonessential (although important) information. 

And please remember:  The examples below show how to punctuate using parentheses. In many of these examples, there is NO NEED to use parentheses at all. You could easily substitute a comma for many of them. 

Parenthetical Items Inside Sentences

1. Always place internal punctuation marks (colons, commas, dashes, semicolons)after the closing parenthesis when the enclosed material is inside the sentence.

  • YES:  Jane finally called me (can you believe it?); it only took three weeks!
  • YES:  If I hear from you by Friday (April 13), I’ll place your order.
  • NO:    If I hear from you by Friday (April 13,) I’ll place your order

2. Place a question mark or exclamation point inside the parentheses if it applies only to the enclosed material and the sentence ends with a different mark.

  • YES:  My mom is eager to meet you (you’ll love her!).
  • YES:  My mom (you’ll love her!) is eager to meet you.
  • YES:  My mom will be here Monday (my sister will be here too).
  • NO:   My mom will be here Monday (my sister will be here too.).

 

3. Use a period inside the parentheses only with an abbreviation, unless the material inside the parentheses is a completely separate sentence.

  • YES:  Will you be here before we close (at 5 p.m.)?
  • YES:  Will you be here before we close?  (We close at 5 p.m.)
  • YES:  Will you be here before we close? (We close at 5.)
  • YES:  The office is open late on Wednesdays (until 5 p.m.).
  • YES:  The office is open late on Wednesdays (we’re here until 5).
  • NO:   The office is open late on Wednesdays (we’re here until 5.).

 

4.  Capitalize the first word within parentheses only if it is a proper noun or adjective, the pronoun I, or the first word of a completely separate sentence.

  • YES:  I’m leaving Monday (San Juan, here I come!) on my “grand tour.”
  • YES:  Dick e-mailed me (I couldn’t believe it!) last night.
  • YES:  Will you stay with us (our dog won’t bother you) when you come to town?
  • YES:  Will you stay with us when you come to town? (Our dog won’t bother you.)
  • NO:  Will you stay with us (Our dog won’t bother you) when you come to town?
  • NO:  Will you stay with us (Our dog won’t bother you.) when you come to town?


Parenthetical Items at the End of a Sentence

1.  Place the end mark of punctuation after the parentheses; do not double up the same mark.

  • YES:  Please let me know by Monday (July 10).
  • YES:  I work with a real “tough cookie” (you know who I mean)!
  • NO:  I work with a real “tough cookie” (you know who I mean!)
  • NO:  I work with a real “tough cookie” (you know who I mean!)!
  • YES:  I work with Tom Smith (did you meet him in Hong Kong?). 
  • YES:  I work with Tom Smith. (Did you meet him in Hong Kong?)
  • NO:  I work with Tom Smith (Did you meet him in Hong Kong?).

 

(And if you’re not totally confused by this post’s information, check out the link here for more on using parentheses and commas in nonessential clauses.)

Last thought:  Although parentheses are too big to use often in a single document, they’re a great choice if a reader would otherwise become confused by seeing too many commas.

  • Confusing:     Sal, my sister, Dana, and Fran will attend the party.
  • Better:            Sal (my sister), Dana, and Fran will attend the party.
  • Even Better:   My sister Sal, Dana, and Fran will attend the party.

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