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Parentheses: How to Use Them in English Writing

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In this page, we will cover the rules for using parentheses, including when to use them and how to use them correctly. We will provide examples of their usage in different contexts, and offer tips for avoiding common mistakes. By the end of this article, you will have a solid understanding of how to use parentheses and brackets in your writing, and be able to communicate your ideas with clarity and precision.

Understanding Parentheses

In English writing, parentheses are punctuation marks used to set apart certain words, phrases, or sentences. They are also known as round brackets and are represented by a pair of curved lines ( ).

Parentheses are used to add extra information in the text that is not essential to the sentence’s meaning but can provide additional context.

They can also be used to clarify a point or direct the reader’s attention to something specific in a sentence or a paragraph.

  • For example, consider the following sentence: “John (my neighbor) is a great cook.”

In this sentence, the phrase “my neighbor” is enclosed in parentheses, indicating that it is additional information that is not necessary to the meaning of the sentence.

Parentheses can also be used to include citations or references in a sentence.

  • For instance, “The study found that the majority of participants (n=50) preferred chocolate over vanilla ice cream.

Here, the citation “n=50” is enclosed in parentheses, indicating that it is additional information that supports the sentence’s claim.

It is important to note that when using parentheses, the sentence should still make sense without the enclosed information. If the enclosed information is essential to the sentence’s meaning, it should be placed outside the parentheses.

Parentheses: How to Use Them in English Writing

Uses of Parentheses

Parentheses are punctuation marks that are commonly used in writing to enclose additional information that is not essential to the main sentence. In this section, we will explore some of the common uses of parentheses.

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In Sentences

Parentheses can be used to add extra information to a sentence that is not essential to the main point. This information can be a word, phrase, or even a complete sentence. For example:

  • The new restaurant (which opened last week) is already receiving rave reviews.
  • Mary (who is my neighbor) is a great cook.

In both of these examples, the information in parentheses is not essential to the main sentence, but it provides additional context or clarification.

In Mathematics

In mathematics, parentheses are used to indicate the order of operations. For example, in the equation 2 + 3 x 4, the answer would be different depending on whether you add 2 and 3 first, or multiply 3 and 4 first. To avoid confusion, we use parentheses to indicate the order of operations:

  • 2 + (3 x 4) = 14
  • (2 + 3) x 4 = 20

In Computer Programming

In computer programming, parentheses are used in a variety of ways. One common use is to enclose arguments in a function call. For example, the following code calls a function named “print” and passes it the argument “Hello, world!”:

  • print(“Hello, world!”)

Parentheses are also used to group expressions or to specify the order of operations. For example, the following code multiplies two numbers and then adds a third number:

  • (2 * 3) + 4

Types of Parentheses

In English, there are four main types of parentheses that we use in writing. These are round brackets, square brackets, curly brackets, and angle brackets. Each type of bracket has its own specific use and purpose.

Round Brackets

Round brackets, also known as parentheses, are the most commonly used type of bracket in English writing. They are used to enclose information not essential to the main sentence. This information can be an explanation, clarification, or an aside.

  • For example, “We are going to the park (weather permitting).” The information inside the parentheses is not necessary for the sentence to be grammatically correct.

Square Brackets

Square brackets are used to enclose information that has been added to a quote or text but was not part of the original. They are often used in academic writing to make a quote more understandable or to clarify something that may be unclear.

  • For example, “The author stated that ‘the study was conducted on a sample of [50] participants.’
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Curly Brackets

Curly brackets, also known as braces, are used to group together related items or to indicate a set of choices. They are not commonly used in English writing, but they can be helpful in certain situations.

  • For example, “The {red, green, and blue} cars are all on sale.”

Angle Brackets

Angle brackets, also known as chevrons, are used in certain technical contexts such as coding or mathematics. They are used to enclose code or to indicate a mathematical operation.

  • For example, “

This is a paragraph

” is a common HTML code that is used to create a paragraph on a web page.

Rules of Using Parentheses

Parentheses are punctuation marks that are used to enclose words, phrases, or sentences that are not essential to the main idea of a sentence. Here are some general rules for using parentheses in English writing and mathematical expressions.

In English Writing

1. Use parentheses to enclose nonessential information that provides additional details or clarifications.

For example:

  • The new restaurant (which just opened last week) is already getting great reviews.
  • My sister (who is a doctor) recommended this medication.

2. Use parentheses to enclose numbers or letters in a series or list.

For example:

  • The three main colors used in this painting are red, blue, and green (RGB).
  • Please refer to section 3.2 (Data Analysis) for more information.

3. Use parentheses to indicate an abbreviation or acronym.

For example:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends getting vaccinated.
  • The United States of America (USA) has a diverse population.

In Mathematical Expressions

1. Use parentheses to group operations together and clarify the order of operations. For example:

  • (2 + 3) x 4 = 20
  • 2 x (3 + 4) = 14

2. Use parentheses to indicate the domain or range of a function. For example:

  • f(x) = x^2, where x ∈ (-∞, ∞)
  • g(x) = 1/x, where x ∈ (0, ∞)

3. Use brackets to indicate the floor or ceiling function. For example:

  • ⌊5.7⌋ = 5
  • ⌈3.2⌉ = 4

Exercises for Practice

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of using parentheses and brackets, it’s time to put your knowledge to the test with some exercises. Don’t worry, we’ve got the answers for you too!

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Exercise 1

Add parentheses or brackets where necessary in the following sentences:

  1. The cat sat on the mat and licked its paws.
  2. My favorite colors are blue, green, and yellow.
  3. The concert, which was sold out, was amazing.
  4. The teacher gave us a pop quiz today.

Answers:

  1. The cat sat on the mat (and licked its paws).
  2. My favorite colors are (blue, green, and yellow).
  3. The concert (which was sold out) was amazing.
  4. The teacher gave us a pop quiz today.

Exercise 2

Choose the correct punctuation mark to complete the sentence:

  1. The weather is nice (, / ; / -) we should go for a walk.
  2. He is a doctor (, / ; / -) he works at the hospital.
  3. The book, which was written by J.K. Rowling (, / ; / -) is one of my favorites.
  4. I need to buy milk, bread, and eggs (, / ; / -) I’m going to the grocery store.

Answers:

  1. The weather is nice; we should go for a walk.
  2. He is a doctor; he works at the hospital.
  3. The book, which was written by J.K. Rowling, is one of my favorites.
  4. I need to buy milk, bread, and eggs; I’m going to the grocery store.

Exercise 3

Rewrite the following sentences using parentheses or brackets to add extra information:

  1. The movie was good. It was directed by Steven Spielberg.
  2. The cake was delicious. It was made by my mom.
  3. The building is old. It was built in the 1800s.

Answers:

  1. The movie (directed by Steven Spielberg) was good.
  2. The cake (made by my mom) was delicious.
  3. The building (built in the 1800s) is old.

These exercises should help you become more comfortable using parentheses and brackets in your writing. Keep practicing and soon it will become second nature!

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