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Is it acceptable to nest parentheses?

Sometimes I want to explain something a bit further twice or more in the same sentence, and I usually find it awkward to use or not use brackets. Let me say for example I want to say

I was in a bus when a 'pastor by claim' (who supposedly repented from being the assistant of Pericome (a very popular dibia (necromancer))) was making calls to different people and convincing them to 'sow seeds'.

I find it very weird to do the above, so I usually patch it up like this:

I was in a bus when a 'pastor by claim' (who supposedly...) ...

then after all the statement I add:

NB: Pericome is blah blah blah, and dibia means necromancer

Normally in formal writing or documents I could add footnotes, but it's not everywhere you can do that...

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marked as duplicate by Carlo_R., coleopterist, Urbycoz, RegDwigнt Nov 20 '12 at 10:17

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2 Answers 2

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Double sets are sometimes unavoidable, but not, on the whole desirable, because they make the reader work more than necessary in working out what's what. A triple set certainly risks confusion. You can write your example without brackets at all, with something like:

I was in a bus when a 'pastor by claim', who supposedly repented from being the assistant of Pericome, that is to say, a very popular dibia, or necromancer, was making calls to different people and convincing them to 'sow seeds'.

What, incidentally, is a 'pastor by claim'?

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Probably means no divinity degree & no official appointment by a religious organization. Just decided one day to call himself a pastor: self-styled : given a specified designation or title by oneself : SOI-DISANT (self-styled experts) (the self-styled champion) [MW3]. In his comedy bit The 2,000 Year Old Man (1961), Mel Brooks has a line about "I put my hand on a rock and said 'I am a [preacher of some sort]'!" –  user21497 Nov 20 '12 at 9:50
    
nice one! Sometimes, I do wonder what it takes to master a command of English. Bill Frankie is right. Anyone can just stand up and start a 'Church' in Nigeria. In fact, that's the trend. –  Chibueze Opata Nov 20 '12 at 14:26

You could use dashes instead of brackets. In the OP example, necromancer seems to be the portion of the passage needing the most specific attention, and the other modifiers can be smoothly detailed with the use of commas.

I was in a bus when a 'pastor by claim', who supposedly repented from being the assistant of Pericome, a very popular dibia--a necromancer, that is--was making calls to people and convincing them to "sow seeds".

I do like the smoothness of @Barrie England's rendition, though.

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