Parentheses (how and why)

Dear editors,

Now that we’ve covered what happens when commas, periods, colons, semicolons, and dashes meet quotation marks, it’s time to turn to parentheses.

To start, a disclaimer: Parentheses should be used sparingly. As the AP Stylebook puts it, “Parentheses are jarring to the reader.”

Sometimes, an impulse to put parentheses around something may indicate that it’s not essential to your story. Other times, the parentheses can be removed or replaced with commas or dashes without changing your meaning. Like semicolons and dashes, parentheses can be, well, voice-y. So be particularly sparing with them in reported pieces.

But parentheses are useful for setting off necessary background or reference information, and for enclosing helpful or funny asides.

On to punctuation!

Place a period outside of a closing parenthesis if the material inside is not a sentence (this, for example).

(But an independent sentence, like this one, should have a period within the closing parenthesis.)

Here’s a recent example from Curbed NY’s Amy Plitt:

It was 50 years ago today the Grand Central Terminal became a New York City landmark, ensuring that the Beaux Arts beauty would be preserved for future generations. (Though it almost wasn’t enough to save the building — but we’ll get to that.)

When a phrase placed in parentheses (this one is an example) may qualify as a complete sentence but is dependent on the surrounding material, do not capitalize the first word or end with a period. Take this example from Racked’s Tanisha Pina:

It’s been something of a mystery since the video was posted, with speculations popping up all over Instagram and YouTube (though some beauty Reddit detectives put the pieces together immediately).

If a parenthetical occurs in the middle of a sentence (like this one), place the comma or other punctuation mark after the end parenthesis, rather than after the word “sentence.”

New Words

Plenty of new words for you this week: taxicab, taxi, parkitecture, natural wine, homebuyer, homeowner, cul-de-sac, Walk Score, Generation X, micro hotel, hash browns, frosé, flaky (not flakey), stir-fry, Wi-Fi (not wifi), shiitake, baby boomer, Champagne, tri-tip, blowout (one word as a noun or adjective), blow out (two words as a verb), crossbody, K-beauty, Lancôme, and top coat.

Update Update

I’ve added an update to the Updates section of Eater’s and Curbed’s style guides:

Updates on news stories should be reserved for either minor new information or new information brought to light within a short time window (usually around 24 hours). If considerable time has elapsed or there is significant new information (a restaurant opens, the place snags an exciting new chef), a second post should be written. Another way to think about it: if the new information warrants a headline readers would click on, a second post is the way to go.

And one more random copy note: Please italicize the titles of podcasts (and put single quotes around them in heds).

Copy News

A copy editor muses about the word “corny.” Plus, the interesting history of Cab Calloway’s Hepster’s Dictionary, and Mel Gibson is suing the producers of a movie about the Oxford English Dictionary.

Have a great week,


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