The Write Stuff
February 2015 Volume 11 Issue 2
Focus on Parentheses
Using parentheses can enhance your writing by providing important “asides” or can detract from your copy if used incorrectly. Here are a few tips:
1. When you use parentheses within a sentence, short is best, as those that contain long clauses make verbiage hard to read. (You may need to double back to read the beginning again.)
Yes: My favorite color (purple) is prominently featured in “The Grand Budapest Hotel. ”
No: My favorite color (purple, a hue commonly associated with royalty, bravery, imagination and inspiration, among other things) is prominently featured in “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
2. Extra information is often better provided following a complete sentence, and there are two ways to do that.
Yes: Look at the introductory copy in #1. I added a complete sentence within parentheses to explain “hard to read.”
Yes: You may also add a clause within parentheses to the end of a sentence (like I have done here).
3. Punctuation may be needed inside or outside of the parentheses, depending on whether the information contained within them is a complete sentence.
Yes: Parts of “Whiplash” are hard to watch (but I can see why J.K. Simmons has been winning all the supporting actor awards).
Yes: I don’t get all the buzz about “Birdman.” (Michael Keaton is very good, but the movie is a bit confusing.)
Change the Subject
I’m sure this has happened to you: You receive an email about a business issue, and after several rounds of back and forth, that topic is handled and your focus moves to scheduling a lunch date. In most cases, however, the subject line of the email hasn’t changed. The solution: as an email’s topic changes, change the subject line accordingly; this will make your life easier.
Is it Plural?
Which is correct? 1) The premises is a mess. 2) The premises are a mess. It’s 1, because while premises sounds plural, it’s singular. (Replace it with “home” or “property” and that becomes clear.)
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