Parentheses in Writing: What They Are and How to Use Them

There are a lot of things you need to cover if you want to improve your writing skills. Grammar and syntax are important parts of the equation, as is vocabulary, but there is another equally essential aspect of your improvement journey that you must focus on: punctuation. Parentheses in writing are an essential form of punctuation, so in this article, we’ll break them down and tell you all you need to know.

What are parentheses used for in writing?

Parentheses have a bunch of different uses in fields like math and science, but they also play an important role in writing. You can use them to add additional context to a sentence like in this example:

The bakery (which was just down the street) had great croissants.

They’re also useful for adding citations or references in academic writing.

What does the parentheses punctuation symbol look like?

The parenthesis symbol looks kind of like the letter C, but with a less pronounced curve. Here’s an example: “( )”

This is a set of closed parentheses.

Where is the parentheses punctuation mark on the American keyboard?

You can find the parentheses symbols in the number row. If you press the number 9 while holding down the SHIFT key, you’ll create the left parenthesis “(“. For the right parenthesis, you need to press 0 while holding down the SHIFT key.

What are the different types of parentheses?

There are quite a few different kinds of parentheses, starting with the traditional and widely used round parentheses that look like this “( )”. There are other kinds of parentheses as well, such as square brackets “[ ]”, curly braces “{ }”, and angle brackets “< >”. You can use square brackets to incorporate additional context or edits in your work, but curly braces and angle brackets generally aren’t as useful in writing.

When is it appropriate to use parentheses when writing?

Parentheses can allow you to add some context to your text. They can help clarify what you mean in a sentence, or provide additional information that the reader may not have otherwise received. That’s not all that they can help with, though – you can also use them in academic writing to enclose the date of a particular citation, or the citation itself.

What types of information should be enclosed in parentheses?

In the context of prose writing, parentheses should contain information that adds context to the preceding text. Here’s an example:

When we went to the store (early in the morning) they were out of pasta.

In the realm of academic writing, parentheses can contain citations or sources that the text is drawing from. What’s more, when you’re sending out official emails, you can use parentheses to mark clarifications or corrections. For example:

I’ll be there at 5 PM (not 3 PM as I mentioned yesterday).

Are there instances where you should avoid parentheses?

You should only use them to include extra context or information. If the information is essential to the text, it’s best to include it outside of parentheses. Also, try to avoid overusing them, since this can clutter up your text and make it a bit harder for people to read. A good rule of thumb is to only add information in parentheses if it clears confusion instead of adding to it..

How to know when to use parentheses in writing

Perhaps the best way to do this is by putting yourself in your reader’s shoes! Would you benefit from some extra information provided in parentheses, or would you prefer it if the information was part of the regular text? It’s best to do some reading to figure it out so that you can internalize how to use it.

Should I place punctuation marks inside or outside parentheses?

It depends on whether the parentheses contain a complete sentence or not. If they do, that sentence should end with a period followed by the closed parentheses. However, if the parentheses contain a fragment, any further punctuation marks such as periods and commas should come after the closed parentheses. Of course, you should place commas and colons as usual within the parentheses for complete sentences.

How to use parentheses according to the Chicago, APA, and MLA style guides

There are slight variations in how you should use parentheses based on these three major style guides. 

  • According to the Chicago Manual of Style, you can use parentheses to include citations, corrections, and context in a sentence. They can also include dates, and citations should feature the author’s last name, the date they were published, and the page number.
  • The APA Style generally doesn’t allow for context adding information within parentheses. They’re reserved for citations, which should include the author’s name and year of publication.
  • Parentheses are crucial for adding citations in the MLM format. They can also include corrections or clarifications for the text, which is an essential part of the scientific method.

Should parentheses be used in titles or headings?

According to most style guides, parentheses generally don’t belong in a title or a heading. They’re meant to provide extra information, and they might make your heading or title look slightly unprofessional.

What is the difference between parentheses, brackets, and braces, and when should I use each of them?

Each of these types of punctuation serve an important role in your writing. Here’s what they are and how you can use them:

  • Parentheses: 

These curved punctuation marks can enclose information, add corrections for previous errors, or give the readers a bit of context. They can help you include information that’s related to the main point, but not exactly essential.

  • Brackets:

Square brackets can indicate that you changed a part of a quote for enhanced readability. Here are two sample sentences:

Barbara forgot it at home.

Barbara forgot [her phone] at home.

The first sentence is a direct quote, but the additional information in the square brackets can help readers understand the quote.

  • Braces:

Sometimes called curly braces or curly brackets,  these punctuation marks serve an essential role in computer programming to enclose functions. They’re not particularly relevant for writing, but make sure you learn how to use them if you want to become a coder!

What tool can I use to check for proper use of parentheses in writing?

Grammarlookup is the best tool for checking your text for typos, grammatical errors, and improper uses of punctuation. If you think that you might’ve made a mistake with your parentheses, just paste your text in our tool and it’ll point all of the flaws out!

Free Grammar And Punctuation Check!

Grammarlookup uses artificial intelligence to check grammar and punctuation mistakes in your writing, eliminate spelling errors, and highlight 1000s of style issues to make your writing exceptional.

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