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Parentheses

Specialized uses
Parentheses (always used in pairs) allow a writer to
provide additional information. The parenthetical Numbered or lettered lists should use a pair of
material might be a single word, a fragment, or multiple parentheses to enclose the numbers or letters.
complete sentences.
Please submit the following four items with your
Whatever the material inside the parentheses, it must application: (1) a cover letter, (2) a resume, (3) a
not be grammatically integral to the surrounding college transcript, and (4) a list of professional
references.
sentence. If it is, the sentence must be recast. This is an
easy mistake to avoid. Simply read your sentence
Time zones are usually enclosed in parentheses following
without the parenthetical content. If it makes sense, the
the time.
parentheses are acceptable; if it doesnt, the punctuation
must be altered.
The conference call will be held at 9:00 a.m. (EST).
Correct: The president (and his assistant) traveled by
private jet. Area codes are sometimes enclosed in parentheses.

Incorrect: The president (and his assistant) were If you have any questions, please call me at (212) 555-
expected to arrive by 10:00 a.m. 7875.

Placement of other punctuation Short translations in unquoted text can be placed in


parentheses. (Use brackets for translations in quoted
When a parenthetical sentence stands on its own, the text.)
closing punctuation mark for the sentence is placed
inside the closing parenthesis. His knowledge of Portuguese is limited
to obrigado (thank you) and adeus (goodbye).
The idea that theoretical physics can be taught without
reference to complex mathematics is patently absurd. In some writing, a persons year of birth and year of
(But dont tell that to the publishers of such death are provided in parentheses when the person is
mathematics-free booksor the people who buy them.) first mentioned. If there is uncertainty about the year, a
question mark should follow it. Note that an en dash,
When parenthetical content occurs at the end of a larger rather than hyphen, is used between the years.
sentence, the closing punctuation mark for the sentence
is placed outside the closing parenthesis. Guido Cavalcanti (1255?1300) had a profound influence
on the writings of Dante.
After three weeks on set, the cast was fed up with his
direction (or, rather, lack of direction). Abbreviations and acronyms

When parenthetical content occurs in the middle of a On the first use of an abbreviation or acronym that
larger sentence, the surrounding punctuation should be might not be understood by your readers, the full term
placed outside the parentheses, exactly as it would be if can be provided in parentheses.
the parenthetical content were not there.
John Smith has been appointed CKO (chief knowledge
We verified his law degree (Yale, class of 2002), but his officer) of the merged company.
work history remains unconfirmed.
In reverse, an acronym or abbreviation can be provided
When a complete sentence occurs in parentheses in the in parentheses upon its first use, and then used in place
middle of a larger sentence, it should neither be of the full term in the remainder of the document.
capitalized nor end with a periodthough a question
mark or exclamation point is acceptable. In conducting the study, researchers relied on positron
emission tomography (PET) and, to a lesser extent,
We verified his law degree (none of us thought he was functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
lying about that) but not his billion-dollar verdict
against Exxon (how gullible did he think we were?).
Awkward: Why cant we do the same thing
Brackets [provide government-funded grants to
independent filmmakers] in this country?
Christina Black asks.
Brackets allow the insertion of editorial material
inside quotations. They can be used for the Recast: Citing filmmaking grants provided by
following purposes: the Australian government, independent
filmmaker Christina Black asks, Why cant we
Clarification do the same thing in this country?
Translation
Indicating a change in capitalization
Indicating errors Translation
Emphasis
Censoring objectionable content If a quotation includes a foreign word or phrase
Parenthetical within parenthetical that might not be understood, provide a
translation in brackets. (Use parentheses for
translations of unquoted material.)
Clarification
Smith writes in his autobiography: I seldom
If the original material includes a noun or spoke in French class. When I did, I usually just
pronoun that is unclear, brackets can be used for said je ne sais pas [I dont know].
clarification.

The president stated that he will not sign the Indicating a change in capitalization
bill they [Republican members of the House]
have been talking about. In most contexts, it is acceptable to silently
change the first letter of quoted material from
In his memoirs, the author reveals, The year uppercase to lowercase, or vice versa. In certain
we moved into the house [1985] was a difficult
one for us, both emotionally and financially. contexts, such changes must be indicated with
brackets.
The media mogul was overheard saying, I
would never do a deal with [Acme Corporation's [T]his study has been widely cited,
CEO,] Wile E. Coyote. notwithstanding its dubious methodology.

When used in this way, the bracketed Under the terms of his employment contract,
his [p]erformance-based stock options shall not
information should be an addition, not a
vest until December 31, 2015.
substitution. For example, if the original
quotation is She never called back, do not
change it to [Lucy] never called back. Instead
Indicating errors
write: She [Lucy] never called back. (Note:
Many newspapers ignore this rule. In
The Latin term sic, meaning so or thus, is
professional and academic writing, it is better to
used to indicate an error or confirm an unusual
follow it.)
usage in the original material. Without the sic, a
reader might wonder if the error was made by
In many cases, brackets can be avoided by
the writer offering the quotation. Note
reframing the quotation.
that sic should be italicized, but the brackets Objectionable content
containing it should not.
If the original material contains language you
The final report indicated that pilot error were deem inappropriate for your audience, brackets
[sic] the most likely cause of the crash. can be used to remove it.

As an alternative, reframe the quotation to He told them to sit the [expletive] down.
eliminate the error.

Pilot error, according to the final report, was


the most likely cause of the crash.
Parenthetical within parenthetical

In the rare event that parentheses are required


If you suspect, but are not certain of, an error in
within parentheses, use brackets instead. This is
the original material, a bracketed guess and
one of the few uses of brackets outside of
question mark is appropriate.
quotations.
The architect appears to have been heavily
influenced by the Bacchus [Bauhaus?] style. Correct: In his twenties, he toured the country
giving lectures to physics students (subsequently
published as M-theory for Morons [2008]).

Emphasis Incorrect: In his twenties, he toured the country


giving lectures to physics students (subsequently
If you use italics to emphasize a portion of the published as M-theory for Morons (2008)).
quotation, indicate the change in brackets.

She said she would consider a very short Brackets in the material being quoted
extension of the deadline, but only under the
most extraordinary circumstances [emphasis
If the material being quoted already contains
added].
brackets, this should be noted.
An alternative approach is to note the emphasis
Richardson finds support for his position in an
outside the quotation, in parentheses, either as a earlier study by the Somesuch Foundation: The
separate sentence immediately after the sentence authors acknowledge that during the four years
containing the quotation: he [George Clinton] was president, average real
wages were flat. (Brackets in original.)
She said she would consider a very short
extension of the deadline, but only under the
most extraordinary circumstances. (Emphasis
added.)

or as a parenthetical note added to the end of the


sentence containing the quotation:

She said she would consider a very short


extension of the deadline, but only under the
most extraordinary circumstances (emphasis
added).
He worked in his office-cum-dining room.
Slash He worked in his office/dining room.

The slash ( / ), also known as the virgule, has several She felt burned out after working for fifteen years in
uses, most of which should be avoided in formal Hollywood as a manager-cum-therapist.
writing. Never use a backslash ( \ ) in place of a slash.
She felt burned out after working for fifteen years in
Poetry Hollywood as a manager/therapist.

The one inarguably acceptable use of the slash in formal Abbreviations


writing pertains to poetry. The slash, with one space on
either side, indicates a line break. Certain abbreviations are formed with a slash.

In choosing your path in life, you might consider the c/o (care of)
words of Robert Frost, in his poem The Road Not P/E ratio (price-to-earnings ratio)
Taken: I took the one less traveled by, / And that has w/ (with)
made all the difference.
Fractions
Meaning per
The slash is used to separate the numerator from the
The slash sometimes serves as shorthand for per, as in: denominator in fractions.

An $800/week salary. 4/5

A top speed of 250 km/h. Conflict or connection

Meaning and The slash is sometimes used to represent a conflict or


connection between two things. As explained here, the
The slash sometimes serves as shorthand for and, as in: en dash can perform the same role.

He is enrolling in the JD/MBA program at Harvard. Slash: The Paris/London train leaves in an hour.
En dash: The ParisLondon train leaves in an hour.
Meaning or
Slash: This perfectly illustrates the nature/nurture
The slash sometimes serves as shorthand for or, as in: debate.
En dash: This perfectly illustrates the naturenurture
Each guest must present his/her ticket prior to entry. debate.

Once the new president is elected, he/she will have Two-year spans
little time to waste.
The slash is sometimes used to indicate something
The deficit reduction will be achieved by spending cuts spanning two years.
and/or tax increases.
Everyone is still talking about the 1995/96 winter
In place of the Latin preposition cum windstorm.

The Latin preposition cum means combined with, This audit covers only the 2005/6 fiscal year.
also used as, or along with being. The slash is
sometimes used to convey the same meaning.