Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Today's question comes from Mr. Hughes' class (I believe from many students, although it was just stated "they" want to know).


The question is when is it okay to use parentheses in writing?

A: Parentheses are used for asides, afterthoughts, series that are not listed down the page (in a paragraph), and a few other places.

This website has some great examples of when to use parenthesis and some very good advice about using them in a numbered or lettered series in a paragraph. Pick one of the examples that best matches your style of writing.

In my transcription job, the dictators are constantly listing series of items and they shouldn't be numbered down the page like this:

1. Whatever.
2. However.
3. Somewhere.

They are in need of staying in the paragraph. I usually type them like this: 1) whatever; 2) however; 3) somewhere.

This doesn't mean that this is the only way to do parentheses or that my way is better than your way, but definitely when listing a series of items you want to be consistent. If you use double parentheses (1), consistently do that throughout.

I can't think of an example right off hand in my writing where I've used parentheses but that doesn't mean I haven't; just that I can't think of somewhere I've done so.

The general rule of thumb is that what's inside the parentheses is basically nonessential "stuff" (yeah, Mr. Hughes' favorite writing word - lol) in the story and basically could be left out and the story would still be the same. I would recommend using them sparingly and try not to sidetrack your reader too often throughout the story. Of course, if you are writing something like historical fiction or using lots of references in your writing, then you will probably need more parentheses. If you want to keep the asides or afterthoughts, commas work just as well as parentheses do. Check out the website and see how many different ways you use parentheses in your writing.

Thanks for the question everyone and keep on writing. See you all in the postings (and for Mr. Hughes' students, I'll chat with you all in class) - Mrs. E :)

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