The Inside Scoop: Parentheses
You know what parentheses are (and — in case this comes up when you're on
Using parentheses tells readers that you're giving some extra information, something that isn't necessary to the meaning of the sentence but is helpful in understanding what's being read. For example:
When readers see parentheses, they know that the material enclosed is extraneous to the meaning of the sentence. If the information is necessary for the sentence to be read correctly, you shouldn't use parentheses. For instance, if you're comparing statistics about two floods that occurred in different years, you might have a sentence like this:
You can't put
You could omit the material inside the parentheses and you'd still have the essence of the sentence. Granted, the sentence wouldn't be as cleverly worded, but the gist would be the same.
Another time parentheses are commonly used is in citing dates, especially birth and death dates.
In addition, use parentheses to enclose numbers or letters that name items in a series. Sometimes both the parentheses marks are used, and sometimes just the mark on the right-hand side is used:
Whether you use both parentheses or just one, be consistent. Also, be aware that if you use one parenthesis only, your reader may easily get the letter mixed up with the preceding word.
In material that covers politics, you'll often see parentheses used to give a legislator's party affiliation and home state (in the case of national politics) or city or county (in the case of state politics).
Another — though less common — use for parentheses is to show readers that an alternate ending for a word may be read. Take a look at this sentence:
Keep in mind that parentheses would not be used this way in more formal writing; the sentence would be reworded to include both