What Are Parentheses? (with Examples)

What Are Parentheses? (with Examples)

Parentheses are punctuation marks (either commas, dashes or brackets) 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
  • 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 Should I Use for Parenthesis?

It is your choice whether to use commas, brackets, or dashes for parentheses. Below are some guidelines:

commas
(pro) normal-looking sentence
(con) commas are often confused with other commas in the sentence

brackets
(pro) parenthesis easily seen
(con) brackets make official letters look a little unorganized

dashes
(pro) parenthesis easily seen
(con) dashes look a little stark

See Also

More on your choice of parentheses Glossary of grammatical terms