The UVic Writer's Guide


Parentheses


Parentheses indicate an interruption in a sentence: an aside or a digression. Usually they enclose a piece of information that is not worthy of its own sentence or even its own clause, but which is worth tucking into another sentence. A more emphatic break in the sentence should be made with a dash (see below).

Consider the different emphases in the following sentences:

37a Jane had to go to City Hall to pay her taxes before she could go to the beach.

37b Jane had to go to City Hall (to pay her taxes) before she could go to the beach.

37c Jane had to go to City Hall--to pay her taxes--before she could go to the beach.

Too many parenthetical interruptions will disrupt the flow of your essay. If you find you have used parentheses too often, try to work the material into the main body of the sentence, or ask yourself whether the digressions are really necessary.


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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated Sept 24, 1995