What Are Parentheses? (with Examples)

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What Are Parentheses? (with Examples)

Parentheses are punctuation marks (either commas, dashes or brackets) which are used in pairs to offset additional information in a sentence.

The additional information is called a parenthesis. The parentheses (i.e., the commas, dashes, or brackets) are known as parenthetical punctuation.

Examples of Parenthetical Punctuation in Sentences

Below are some examples of parentheses in sentences. In each example, the parenthesis is shaded.
  • Mrs Allan, 64 at the time, rang the police immediately.
  • (In this example, commas have been used as parentheses.)
Read more about using commas as parentheses
Read more about using commas in general
  • Due to pub quizzes, Buzz Aldrin — the second man on the Moon — is now as famous as Neil Armstrong.
  • (In this example, dashes have been used as parentheses.)
Read more about using dashes
  • Mrs O'Grady's other macaw (called "Billy Two") rides a motorized skateboard.
  • (In this example, brackets have been used as parentheses.)
Read more about using round and square brackets

What are commas?
What are dashes?
What are parentheses (i.e., brackets)?

Note: In the US, the term parentheses is used specifically for brackets. For many people in the UK, the term parentheses does not specifically denote brackets but any type of parenthetical punctuation (i.e., commas, dashes, or brackets).

It is your choice whether to use commas, brackets , or dashes for parentheses. Below are some guidelines:
  • Dashes — parenthesis easily seen, but dashes look a little stark
  • Commas — normal-looking sentence, but commas are often confused with other commas in the sentence
  • Brackets — parenthesis easily seen, but brackets make official letters look a little unorganized

More on your choice of parentheses Glossary of grammatical terms

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