(Parentheses)

14 Aug

It was a long time before I understood dimples.

I was very young the first time they were described to me, and I walked away from the conversation thinking that the dimples were ill-named.  Face scars.  That was how I understood them.  A permanent skin divot?  Don’t tell me that’s a dimple.  Don’t tell me that’s cute.  That’s a scar.  You’re telling me that little girl has adorable matching face scars.  I’ll compromise and call them half-moon gauges, but you’re not talking me any lower than that.

Then a few years later, in 4th grade, I met a boy upon whom I had a tremendous crush.  And everything changed, because he had dimples, and when he smiled at me, all of the sudden, I got dimples.  When he smiled at me, I didn’t want to make fun of his face mutation; I wanted to say, “Those dimples on your face are tiny hammocks in which the lightest parts of my soul were meant to sleep.”

I still think dimples are funny.  People who have them are essentially walking around with a pair of parentheses on their faces.  And the same thing is always between those parentheses: their mouth.  So no matter where you are or what you are doing, if you have dimples, every conversation you have–whether you like it or not–silently ends with your face parentheses saying, basically, “Oh, by the way … my mouth.”

This brings me to the first rule of using parentheses:

1. The information contained within your parentheses should be disposable.  Information in parentheses is usually of minor importance: you might use parentheses to add a small, clarifying detail or an afterthought.  Your sentence must still be able to maintain function and meaning without whatever is written in the parentheses.  The main part of your sentence should be outside (and you can sneak little fun tidbits inside).

2. There should be one space (like the one after space) before the first parenthesis mark.  There should not, however, be any spaces between the parenthesis mark itself and the first word within (see how there is no space before see?).

3. IN MOST CASES: end punctuation goes OUTSIDE of the parentheses.  Remember that the parentheses contain optional information.  This means that you need to punctuate your sentence as if the parentheses are not there.  Here are a couple of examples.

Example 1:

In this sentence (you know, the one you’re reading right now), the parenthetical remark is in the middle.

Always remember: information within the parentheses is optional information.  That means you should be able to lift it out at any time, and the sentence will still make grammatical and logical sense.  This includes punctuation.  In Example 1, if we lifted the parenthetical remark out, we would be left with, “In this sentence, the parenthetical remark is in the middle.”

We put a comma after the end parenthesis in the example because if we took the parentheses OUT, we would still need a comma after the introductory phrase In this sentence.  The only difference is that with the parentheses in, we put the comma outside of the parentheses themselves.

Example 2:

This is a sentence where the parentheses are at the end (right here).

The period goes OUTSIDE OF THE PARENTHESES.  I cannot emphasize that enough.  A period always goes at the end of the sentence, even if some dimply punctuation marks get in the way first.

Example 3:

This is an example (see what I’m doing?) where there is punctuation inside of AND outside of the parentheses.

Like I said, you must always punctuate your sentence the exact same way you would if you weren’t including whatever you have in parentheses.  This almost always means punctuation outside of the parentheses.  However, that doesn’t mean that there is never a place for punctuation INSIDE the parentheses as well.  In Example 3, a question is asked within the parentheses.  Therefore, the logical thing to do is to use a question mark.  The sentence that is going on outside of the parentheses is still punctuated normally; since a question was asked within the parentheses, though, it should be indicated with the proper punctuation.  The same would go for a parenthetical exclamation (like this!).  And you’ll notice I still put a period outside of the parentheses, because I need that period to end the outside sentence.

There is more to be said about parentheses, but now is not the time.  Now is the time to continue brainstorming ways to bring those with dimples back down to Earth.  They’ve spent too much of their lives being praised for their face parentheses.  I consider it my mission to give them far less adorable names, like Twin Baby Banana Face.

And no, most celebrities: that’s not a viable option for a baby name.

Although Twin Baby Banana Face Danza does sort of have a ring to it.

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3 Responses to “(Parentheses)”

  1. HopefulLeigh August 23, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

    I officially heart your blog, Rianne.

  2. Useful website. Thanks for sharing.

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