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Parentheses are like billboards, digressions that often steal focus from the important part of the text.

  • Parentheses May Be Useful in Nonfiction.

Parentheses have their greatest value in nonfiction writing when the information presented needs to be supplemented with an off-the-road clarification or comment. If the information is so unimportant that it needs parentheses, you might need to either delete it or make it an important part of the sentence, without parentheses.

  1. Without saying anything, Earl slipped out of the house and boarded a flight to Moline (an Illinois city on the Mississippi River, his childhood home). (If the information can’t be left out, then use a comma and show its importance.) Without saying anything, Earl slipped out of the house and boarded a flight to Moline, an Illinois city on the Mississippi River, his childhood home.
  2. North Texas Christian Writers (NTCW) encourages writers to meet regularly to improve one another’s skills. (After naming a firm, the abbreviation in parentheses can be used).
  3. Diets fail because (1) food groups are excluded, (2) restrictions increase hunger, and (3) exceptions aren’t counted.
  4. “You really ought to try Panchito’s (the Mexican restaurant on McCullough),” Ramon said. (Never use parenthetical expressions in dialogue.)
  5. [Jesus said,] “If you forgive others for the wrongs they have done, your heavenly Father will forgive you” (Matthew 6:14 EWS). (In quoting, use square brackets to include essential information that is missing in the source, parentheses to cite the source).
  • Avoid Parentheses in Stories.

Stories need to move rapidly forward, without side notes, focused on the viewpoint character’s concerns. Either eliminate the parenthetical expression or make it a part of the story, without parentheses.