Parentheses are an excellent way to offset the main sentence’s explanations, detail, and asides. They are easy to use and provide clarification and information to your reader.
However, they come with their own set of punctuation rules.
When my students are taught how to use parentheses, providing them with the rules of end marks and commas helps them integrate their use into their own writing. First, let’s review what a parenthesis is and how it is used. Then, let’s look at the basic punctuation rules with parentheses and some simple examples.
Does the Period Go Before or After Parentheses?
Period placement is dependent upon the placement of the parenthetical statement. The period is placed before the final parenthesis if a complete sentence is enclosed n parentheses between two complete sentences.
The period is placed after the final parenthesis if the parenthetical text is located at the end of the sentence.
Punctuation and Parentheses
Parentheses must be properly punctuated, and the correct placement of a period is important to understand what is contained within the parentheses.
Parentheses Period Rule #1
DO NOT use a period if a phrase or declarative sentence interrupts another sentence. Declarative sentences are incomplete sentences and do not have terminal punctuation marks.
- I wanted to get a jump on permissions (per school policy before an extended break) as well as the scheduling of a substitute.
Parentheses Period Rule #2
DO use a period if the sentence ends with a parenthetical text. The period is placed AFTER the closing parenthesis.
- Driving cross-country is fun (as long as you have good company).
Parentheses Period Rule #3
DO use a period if you contain a complete parenthetical sentence in parenthesis between two complete sentences. The period is placed BEFORE the closing parenthesis.
- I feel like getting out of town this weekend. (Work has been particularly exhausting.) My co-workers agree, and we may set up a girl’s weekend in a mountain cabin.
Although this article focuses specifically on period placement, it is important to highlight where other punctuation marks belong.
Examples of the Parenthesis Period Rules
- Most of the vendors only sold hot dogs. (The only exception was the local BBQ stand.) They were made to each guest’s specific order.
- Punctuating parentheses is easy (if you know where to put the period).
What is the Rule for Parentheses Use?
Parentheses, also called round brackets, help to set off additional, nonessential materials from a main sentence. They help add detail and clarity for your audience.
- Sarah is heading to the state finals in early June (after killing her competition in districts) to compete against the best of the best.
Remember not to overuse parenthesis, which can create unclear prose or choppy sentence structures. Making sure your reader knows the purpose of your writing is essential; proper punctuation can help with that.
Parentheses Rule #1: Only Use Parentheses with Nonessential Information
The Information within your parentheses should be able to be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence.
- Ana completed her essay (it took much less time than she expected) and thus could go to the movies with her friends.
- I felt it was necessary to attend the school board meeting. (We were exhausted by not having any feedback.) Unfortunately, our concerns fell on deaf ears.
Parentheses Rule #2: Use Parentheses to Offset Numbers and Letters that Represent a Date or a List.
Parenthesis can be used to help offset the dates, clarification, or a series of items in a list. This helps organize a sentence and makes it easier for your reader to follow.
- The Civil War (1861-1965) was a long, bloody period in American History.
- Please bring your twenty dollars ($20) for exam enrollment to school tomorrow.
- I need you to (a) sit up, (b) pay attention, and (c) keep your mouth shut.
Parentheses Exclamation and Question Mark Rule
When an exclamation or question interrupts is offset in parentheses within a complete sentence, always place your end mark before the closing parenthesis. You also must capitalize the first word after the beginning parenthesis because it is considered an entire sentence.
- My little league baseball team (I still cannot believe they chose me as a coach!) will attend the Major League playoffs this year.
- The new house we bought (Are the neighbors still unaware that we moved in?) is located at the end of a cul-de-sac with a beautiful lake view.
Parentheses Comma Rule
Commas with parenthesis rules are also important to understand, but luckily they are also easy to apply. Simply remember to place a comma after the closing parenthesis to join two independent clauses together.
- His batting average was the best on the team (he worked hard through the off season), and a local University was scouting him.
Parentheses are used to offset nonessential information within a complete sentence. They should never be overused but can help add clarity or detail to your sentence’s purpose. When you use them, be sure to punctuate them correctly.
Periods belong inside – or before the end parenthesis when the parenthesis contains a complete sentence – and is placed between two other complete sentences that end in periods. Periods belong outside, or after the end parenthesis, when the parenthetical material is located at the end of the sentence it is included in.