Parentheses and Dashes

Parentheses ( )


  • Provide extra/nonessential information.
  • Separate material (a word, phrase, or sentence) from the main part of the sentence.
  • De-emphasize the importance of the material in the parentheses.

    Example: Tragically, Clay Aiken (a talented singer) did not win American Idol.


  • When parenthetic information is part of the main sentence, the sentence punctuation goes outside the parenthesis.Example: Many viewers complain about the excessive praise of a particular American Idol judge (Paula Abdul).
  • When the punctuation belongs to the parenthetical information itself, the punctuation goes inside the parenthesis.

    Example: Singers are often criticized for being "pitchy." (A pitchy singer typically gives a poor vocal performance.)

Dashes -


  • Similar to the function of parentheses, except dashes emphasize information.
  • Join a phrase to the end of a sentence to add an example, illustration, or contradiction.

    Example: American Idol is hosted by the most humorous man on earth - Ryan Seacrest.
  • Insert an idea into the middle of a sentence to add an example, illustration, or contradiction.
    • The idea must be enclosed by dashes and could be lifted out of the sentence without affecting its overall sense.
     Example: Channel 19 - considered by many as the home of trashy television - airs American Idol on Tuesday nights.