Parentheses, along with commas and dashes, often set off supplemental or explanatory material. To determine which marks to use, consider how close in thought the explanatory words are to the main sentence.

-- Commas usually set off material that is close to the main thought of the sentence.

The Williamsburg Chapter, after finishing third in the recent contest, has decided to reinstate a system for qualifying for contest.

-- Dashes set off material that is loosely related.

With all the props on stage--papier maché palm trees, a bamboo hut, and a bubbling cauldron--the men had little room to maneuver.

-- Parentheses set off material that is not part of the main sentence but is too relevant to omit.

Chauncey Olcott's songs (as arranged by Dave Stevens) will always be suitable for contest.

Punctuation with parenthesis

-- Commas, semicolons, and periods are place outside the closing parenthesis.

I went to the chapter's rehearsal (my third attempt this week), but no one was there.

-- Question marks and exclamation points are placed inside if the parenthetical material is itself a question or an exclamation.

We had no intention (who could think otherwise?) of sitting out the fall contest.

-- Do not capitalize the first word inside the parentheses unless it is the pronoun I or a proper noun or adjective.

The song "Keep America Singing" (Canadians might disagree) ought not have the lyrics changed to "Keep the whole world singing."

-- When a phrase placed inside the parentheses might normally be a complete sentence but is dependent on surrounding material, do not capitalize the first word or end with a period. An independent sentence standing by itself within parentheses is separated from the preceding sentence and the subsequent sentence by two spaces. In this case, all terminal punctuation goes within the parentheses.

Take a deep breath through the nostrils. (Do not lift the shoulders.)
The quartet No Holds Barred piled up an incredible 155-point lead in first round of competition. (For a more in-depth analysis of the quartet's performance, see page 4 of this issue.)


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