Parentheses allow writers to clarify an idea that either won't fit gramatically in a sentence, or is intended to not be stressed because is it less important. Parentheses have the same effect as commas and dashes and should be used as little as possible due to their physical dominance in sentences.

When to use them

When using parentheses, several rules should be taken into account.

  • Place commas after the closing parenthesis of parenthetical inserts if the parenthetical insert is a part of the preceding clause.
  • Don't ever place a comma before a parenthesis.
  • Question marks and exclamation points should go after closing parentheses unless they are ending a quote. If the question mark of exclamation point is part of a quote, it can go before the opening parenthesis.
  • Parenthetical inserts that are intended to be sentences should be written as sentences. Capitalize the first letter and place a period inside the parenthesis.
  • If the parenthetical insert is part of the preceding clause, place the period outside the parenthesis.
  • Keep parenthetical inserts BRIEF.

How they can help your writing

Using parentheses allows writers to have variation in their work. A parenthetical insert can alter the monotonous use of commas, if it is done correctly. Parentheses also allow writers to correctly cite their sources so that they won't be accused of plaigarism and permanently tarnish their name.

Examples of correct usage

William Shakespeare's Macbeth (ironically my least favorite) is known to be one of the greatest plays of its kind.

Alcoholism is a psychological disease and is prevalent among some college students (116).

Examples of incorrect usage

After much discussion, (18 minutes) she agreeed to help Jim with his homework. -—The comma should go after the closing parenthesis.

According to Smith, you should never run in the rain. (120) --The period should be placed after the closing parenthesis of the citation.

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