Crimes Against Grammar: The Missing Parenthesis


Parentheses are a beautiful thing. I love them. They’re a wonderful tool for writing–they’re useful and convenient and fun. You can say anything you want in parentheses. You can even stack them.

For instance, if I decide to write in parentheses (and I often do) but I have a parenthetical thought to add inside those parentheses (and, being the writer I am [that is, a writer with a lot of thoughts to get across], I sometimes do), I can absolutely do that via brackets. And if I have yet another thought to share within the brackets (which, in all honesty, has never happened [I’ve never actually had to use brackets, even {before this post, that is}]), you can share that thought via braces.

It’s a little tedious, granted, but it works.

Parentheses are also fairly easy to use. The only thing that you really have to be careful of is the punctuation. When you write in parentheses within a sentence (like this), you have to remember to put the punctuation after the parenthesis, not before. (or else you’ll have a little parenthetical thought floating out into nowhere, like this)

That’s the hardest part about parentheses. That’s the part that should give people trouble. The part that shouldn’t give people trouble is remembering to close off the parentheses. I mean, that shouldn’t be difficult at all. Put a parenthesis before the thought, and a parenthesis after it. Easy-peasy. Nothing to it. Anyone can do it.

And yet . . .

You know what I’m talking about. You’ve seen it before, in a post or an article or a book edited by someone who ought to be fired (or if not fired, at least re-acquainted with what the term “editing” actually means.

I know you’ve seen it before. In fact, you saw it just now.

Did you catch it?

If you didn’t, look back. For those of you squirming in your seats, your righteous suffering will be rewarded, for you are the ones who will go on to right all the wrongs of the world.

For those of who didn’t catch it, here’s what’s wrong–I’m still talking within the parentheses. I never closed off my little parenthetical splurge up above.

This, of course, doesn’t make any sense, because I’ve moved on to an entirely different subject. It’s obvious that another parenthesis is supposed to go at the end of that phrase, but I’ve left it dangling. This, unfortunately, means that everything I’ve been saying is technically parenthetical, even though it shouldn’t be. If I were writing a novel, every page after that forgotten parenthesis would be a long continuation of that one little parenthetical thought.

For those of you still squirming, I’ll end it here.)

And by the way, I have read books like that. I’ve read books in which the entire last half is parenthetical because the author forgot a parenthesis. Then, of course, said author doesn’t add one at the very end of the book (and therefore never closes off the parentheses) so that, I imagine, carries over into everything else that author writes, so he never says anything of real substance–it’s all just a parenthetical comment on whatever subject he was originally writing of.

And this, of course, carries on forever–to the end of the earth and the end of the world, until he adds the parenthesis to end all parentheses.

It’s practically the apocalypse.

I saw it, just recently, in the most unexpected of all places.

It almost made me cry.

Jane Austen did it.

There I was, reading Sense and Sensibility, reveling in Elinor’s dry humor, when I was suddenly torn out of blissful fiction into the cold, hard-hearted world of reality and bad grammar.

She forgot to close off her parentheses.

I wish that I could pass that off as the fault of the person who copied down her work, or of the people who printed it, or of practically anyone else. But I can’t. Not really.

The fact is, I think it was Austen’s fault.

After all, some of those Victorian writers didn’t actually have the best grammar. Take Charles Dickens, for one.

I think that man just used punctuation wherever he thought it looked pretty. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him use a semicolon followed immediately by an em-dash.

As if one isn’t strong enough;–as if you need both!

But I digress.

My point is, dear reader, that you should always close off your parentheses. To do otherwise is simple laziness.

And honestly, it’s one more keystroke. Well, two, actually, since you have to hold down Shift.

Two keystrokes. It’s the least you could do for society.



3 thoughts on “Crimes Against Grammar: The Missing Parenthesis

  1. You are obsessed, Sadie lol. But lets be honest, leaving a parentheses is worse than ditching your friends to go eat. I’d rather see that than have the second happen to me.


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