How to Use Parentheses

Parentheses are the rounded brackets writers use to distinguish a phrase or clause from the rest of the sentence. Parentheses are always used in pairs.

How to use parentheses to set off the parenthetical elements in a sentence:

  1. A parenthetical element can be completely eliminated from the sentence and not change the meaning of the sentence: "The team (all but one member) left early for the conference."
  2. Parentheses are also used to add clarity to a statement: "Rate the following statements from one (low) to five (high) using the scale to the right of each statement."
  3. Parentheses are used to enclose numbers when listing items: "In the coming weeks, we need to (1) hire four temps, (2) rent a new office building, and (3) move everyone to the new location.
  4. When punctuating a parenthetical element, the period goes inside the parentheses only if there is a complete sentence inside: "Review the sales report (I attached it to the email.)."
Author: Janie Sullivan

Janie Sullivan, MBA, MAEd, has been teaching adult learners for over 20 years. She has taught online over 15 years, specializing in writing, communications, and small business applications. Janie directs the Center for Writing Excellence where she offers writing, editing, and formatting services for writers. She has been published in several newspapers and magazines as well as multiple online sites. She teaches communication, business strategy, leadership, and management courses. Janie has published a book "Develop and Deliver an Online Class." This is the third book she has written about writing and teaching online. She also has published a novel and an anthology of short stories.

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