Here we are, nearly at the end of our year-long punctuation/grammar series. I hope you’ve learned a lot and gained much insight from these quick posts so that your manuscripts gleam professionalism on the inside. Believe it or not, this careful attention to all the little grammar nuances in a story is what catches the eye of agents and editors—and readers, oh yes!—because it shows you care deeply for the presentation as well as writing a great story.
Why Paying Attention to the Parentheses Is Important (Just in Case You’re Wondering)
- Presentation is everything, presentation is everything, presentation . . . yeah.
- The parentheses is stronger than the comma because it sets what you have to say apart from the rest of the sentence.
- Using the parenthesis sets off the part of text that doesn’t necessarily have any grammatical relationship to the rest of the text. (I’ll explain. . .)
In this blog post, let’s look at the parentheses. The plain and simple parentheses that actually plays an important role in your manuscript, whether fiction or nonfiction. I’ll be referring to The Chicago Manual of Style, chapter six.
Mostly, parentheses are used in nonfiction pieces, but can be used in fiction also. For reference, here are a few examples of parentheses used wisely in a sentence:
- The authors who speak to our souls (Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, Eugene Petersen, Charles Dickens) have paved the way for excellent literature and classical voice.
- The Write-to-Publish conference (which brings in agents and publishers) is held in June in Chicago every year.
- Hudson’s explanation of Scripture versus scripture (it’s found in Christian Writer’s Manual of Style) is important when referring to works of theology or religion.
If you have an educational or technical manuscript, use parentheses for glosses or translations. (Chicago Manual of Style 6.96).
- Use parentheses to explain or translate what might be unfamiliar to readers.
- If a term is given in English, you might want to give the original term in whatever language you’re talking about. For example, German has two levels of beauty—general (schöne) and radiant (sehr schöne).
- But in material that’s quoted, it’s best to put that extra material in brackets (according to CMoS 6.99 and 7.53 and 11.9).
Ready for some real examples? Here we go!
- The box of books for the competition (they are from a wide variety of writing styles) will arrive next week.
- Have you read any of the recent authors (most of them are debut authors)?
- When using scientific terms, please define them simply for a lay audience, such as the number 1,000,000,000 is mil millones (billion).
Parentheses within parentheses! (Chicago Manual of Style 6.97).
- This one’s short, but I think the explanation is necessary, especially if you’re writing a bibliography for your book.
- For fiction and nonfiction writers, Chicago actually prefers brackets within parentheses instead. It’s British style that uses parentheses within parentheses.
- For US writers, use brackets within parentheses. (CMoS 6.101.)
- For example, (If you want to study how to ask better questions, Dean Nelson’s Talk to Me  is a clear, concise, and easy book to read.)
Parentheses with other punctuation (Chicago Manual of Style 6.98).
- If you’re using parentheses, the closing punctuation is a comma.
- For example, When we go to the store (that’s every Friday), we’ll get milk and cookies and a book.
- Do not use a colon, semicolon, or comma before a parentheses.
- For example, When we go to the store (that’s every Friday) we’ll get milk and cookies and a book.
- A period comes after the closing parentheses in a sentence that is entirely a parenthetical statement. If not, the period comes before.
- For example, an entirely parenthetical statement (I’m excited about seeing Downton Abbey this fall.)
- A partial parenthetical statement, Let’s go see Downton Abbey (that’s coming out this fall).
- And sometimes you’ll see two parentheses back to back.
- For example, The structure for using American Sign Language is different than speaking (store I will go) (I will go to the store).
How’s that for a very brief introductory to using the parentheses that’s sometimes used but so often tricky to use?
Using the well-placed parentheses (as well as the surrounding punctuation) is important because your overall presentation makes a world of difference to your editor, agent, publisher, and readers. That may seem counterintuitive because the writing is equally important, but it’s the presentation that enhances your credibility as a writer. (Especially if you self-publish and are doing your own first-draft editing.)
Pro Tip :: I’m creating a few cheat sheets on some of the topics I’ve covered so far, and if you’d like to be in the loop for when they’ll be ready, just go to my website and email me, letting me know you’d like to be added to my Grammar List!! I look forward to seeing you!
Please take a minute and join in the discussion! I’d love to hear from you!
Do you find yourself using parentheses in your writing? I’d love to see an example! What kind of writing do you think would warrant the use of the fabulous parentheses? Let me know in the comments!