Editor’s Note: “Punctuation is a tricky thing. And no, don’t worry… I’m not even thinking about discussing the Oxford comma again.”
That’s how Issue 14 of the quarterly Genuine Writer Review begins.
While it’s not due out until Saturday, July 7, I’m giving you a sneak peek today to discuss a very important part of punctuation. Parentheses.
If parentheses don’t seem very sexy, that’s pretty much because they’re not. They can, however, be useful… when handled appropriately.
What’s the appropriate way to handle them and what isn’t? That’s a question answered below. But for more punctuation insights that might surprise you (though they’re still not going to be sexy), sign up here for The Genuine Writer, which automatically includes a subscription to The Genuine Writer Review.
Either that or you can always click on the graphic below. It will take you to the same exact punctuation-pleasing, creativity-stimulating and professionally provocative writing tips, tricks and tactics.
Trust me: You want to have this collection in your writing repertoire.
So without further ado, welcome to page 4 of The Genuine Writer Review Issue 14 – July 2017 copy…
The Easily Distracting Aspects of Seemingly Unobtrusive Parentheses
It would be inaccurate to say that parentheses in and of themselves are never optimal. But like dashes, ellipses and exclamation marks, they can be overdone.
Unlike dashes, ellipses and exclamation marks though, parentheses don’t really risk being cheesy or even visually distracting so much. They’re much more mentally distracting. Which isn’t any better.
Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single reason why these curved enclosing lines should be used in fiction. With that said, there probably is some rationale or explanation I’m not thinking of.
The top of my head, in all honesty, can be a little shallow sometimes.
That aside, in non-fiction, parentheses are a lot more permissible. Take the following placements:
In school and college reports, as well as cited sources in academic studies (www.InnovativeEditing.com)
To indicate an “i.e.” or “e.g.” when you need to clarify something or give examples as an aside (as indicated two bullet points down)
To give further reading directions, as in, “(For more information on this subject, see the Special Notes appendix)"
To assure your audience that they matter or that you’re not slacking off or some such thing (e.g., “more about this later” or “don’t worry, I’m getting to the point”).
But even then, they should be used sparingly.
Parentheses are deliberately made to pull you right out of the regular text. They’re like those scenic pullover spots along major highways where drivers can get off the main road to admire the view.
No doubt then, the view is quite spectacular. But that doesn’t always make it worthwhile.
If it’s a short trip, you’re not going to want to pull off the highway more than once. Otherwise, you’re making the trek much, much longer than it needs to be, which is more than likely frustrating.
In the same way, be careful about how many times you make your readers mentally stop to take a quick detour. Otherwise, you might lose them along the way.
Editor’s Note: The rest of The Genuine Writer Review issue covers punctuation that is easily overdone and easily misused. Do you fall into those common traps?
There’s only one way to find out. Your answers await right here.