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Is it acceptable to nest parentheses?

Are you allowed to have parentheses within parentheses in English?

Something like

"(I did that because I wanted to (and the want came from too much vodka), I still regret it, however)"

I just made that sentence up.

  • 1
    You have a comma splice in your example after the fist closing parenthesis.
    – compman
    Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 23:25

3 Answers 3


Garner's Modern American Usage has this on nested parentheses under an entry for square brackets ([ ]):

brackets often show parentheses within parentheses

Smith and her commander (Robert Parnell, also a [helicopter] pilot) both survived the crash.

But in some fields, such as law, it's not only acceptable, but customary to use parentheses within parentheses.

For what it's worth, he also has this on the use of parentheses:

Virtually any punctuation mark is subject to an annoying overuse, but this is especially true of parentheses, which to be effective must be used sparingly. When they appear at all frequently, they tire the reader's eye, add to the burden of decoding, and deaden the reader's interest. Sentences can sag with all the qualifying parentheticals.

  • 2
    Boy, this guy would enjoy Lisp :) Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 1:57
  • 1
    Many a time, the parentheses are not necessary at all. The writer just needs more confidence. I would write "Both Smith and her commander Robert Parnell, also a helicoper helicopter pilot, survived the crash."
    – BZ1
    Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 8:18
  • 1
    @BZ1, you typed "helicopter" twice. Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 7:15

It looks a bit confusing. I'd better rephrase it like this, using a semicolon:

"(I did that because I wanted to, and the want came from too much vodka; I still regret it, however.)"

It separates more than a comma, but it's "weaker" than a full stop. It usually signals that the following sentence is kind of separated from the previous one, but it's still strongly related. See here for further explanations.

Anyway, avoid nested parentheses, they will very likely just confuse and annoy the reader.


This is grammatically valid, and not uncommon. I think it's less common in formal, non-technical works. (Techies seem to be more receptive to this.)

Wikipedia (scroll down to "parentheses").

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