Home
Subscribe | Order Our Book

Punctuating with Parentheses

Which of these sentences are punctuated correctly?

  1. The convention will be held at the Hilton (Riverside, not Downtown).

  2. Although the director had just hired two new employees (Johnson and Carlisle,) she decided to attend the job fair to circulate information about the company.

  3. The survey clearly indicates a preference among our employees for flexible holiday options, (see appendix for survey data) but a new policy has not yet been put into effect.

  4. The survey clearly indicates a preference among our employees for flexible holiday options. (See appendix for survey data.)

  5. The survey clearly indicates a preference among our employees for flexible holiday options (survey data in appendix.)

Sentences 1 and 4 are correctly punctuated.

In sentence 2, we need a comma after the introductory clause "Although the director had just hired two new employees (Johnson and Carlisle)," but it should come outside the closing parenthesis rather than inside:

Although the director had just hired two new employees (Johnson and Carlisle), she decided to attend the job fair to circulate information about the company.

Sentence 3 needs a comma between the two independent clauses joined by the coordinating conjunction "but." Because the parenthetical information happens to come at that juncture in the sentence, however, the comma should go after the closing parenthesis:

The survey clearly indicates a preference among our employees for flexible holiday options (see appendix for survey data), but a new policy has not yet been put into effect.

In most cases (see the two exceptions below), it is incorrect to put a mark of punctuation directly before the opening parenthesis within a sentence. And even though the parenthetical element in number 3 is a complete sentence, we do not use a capital letter at the beginning or a period at the end because the element is placed within another complete sentence.

This article continues right below the box.

Support this site!

If you value the information on this Web site, please help us cover our expenses. Thanks!

Punctuation can immediately precede parentheses only when they function as "static" enclosers, such as those that are used with the letters or numbers of the items in a list.

Example:

Leave only one line of space (1) between the address and the greeting, (2) between the greeting and the body of the letter, and (3) between the body and the closing.

The parentheses used with an area code are also static.

Example:

Inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policies should be made to the director of the Office of Human Resources, 1895 South Street, South Orange, NJ 07079, (973) 275-1975.

Notice that in sentence 4 above, when the parenthetical element concludes the sentence and is itself a complete sentence, we may conclude the main sentence with a period and treat the sentence in the parentheses as we would any sentence--that is, we begin it with a capital letter and end it with the appropriate punctuation mark placed inside the closing parenthesis.

If, however, the parenthetical element is not a complete sentence but is placed after the main sentence, as in number 5 above, then we have no choice but to punctuate after the closing parenthesis.

TEST YOURSELF

  1. The employee's Social Security number, (or if this is unavailable, the ID number used in the company's database) must be entered for each name on the official listing.

  2. The chairman of the board has made a number of recommendations (the report will be published within the next week.)

  3. According to an article in a local newspaper (not the one owned by Knight Ridder), one-third of this state's colleges and universities exceeded their performance-funding measures this year.

  4. The committee has been meeting every day for the past three weeks (excluding weekends, of course,) but we still have not been able to resolve the problem.

    ANSWERS

  5. The employee's Social Security number (or if this is unavailable, the ID number used in the company's database) must be entered for each name on the official listing. [no comma BEFORE the opening parenthesis]

  6. The chairman of the board has made a number of recommendations (the report will be published within the next week). [period OUTSIDE the closing parenthesis, at the end of the main sentence]

  7. CORRECT

  8. The committee has been meeting every day for the past three weeks (excluding weekends, of course), but we still have not been able to resolve the problem. [comma OUTSIDE the closing parenthesis AFTER the first independent clause, which it modifies]

Copyright 2001 Get It Write

More Articles