I am currently writing a formal personal statement for a university application process. I would like some advice as to whether or the use of parentheses mid-sentence and the use of "to bear fruit" in terms of succeeding at a task are formal, or if they should be replaced with something else.

closed as unclear what you're asking by FumbleFingers, jimm101, Dan Bron, Drew, Scott Oct 14 '16 at 10:38

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    If you feel the need to -1, an explanation would go some way in preventing a question like this from being asked again, if for some reason you think it's irrelevant/ against rules. – Keir Simmons Oct 13 '16 at 16:45
  • (Not my downvote, but...) Note that you could succeed at some task even if your efforts didn't bear fruit. I could successfully calculate pi to ten decimal places in my head (I wish!), but my achievement wouldn't be likely to bear fruit. – FumbleFingers Oct 13 '16 at 16:46
  • Thank you. @FumbleFingers , does that then mean that if my efforts bore fruit, then it implies that I have succeeded at said task? – Keir Simmons Oct 13 '16 at 17:21
  • Well, I suppose usually the implication would be that you must have been successful if your efforts "bore fruit" (had a highly desirable outcome). But there's nothing inherently contradictory about, say, My attempt to change the car tyre myself was unsuccessful, but my efforts bore fruit because I ended up marrying the motorist who stopped to help me. – FumbleFingers Oct 13 '16 at 17:41

With punctuation, what is appropriate or inappropriate is often just a matter of taste and sound.

For example, some people eschew the use of semi-colons; I don't. I think semi-colons are quite serviceable, and I do not think only effete snobs and grammar Nazis should use them!

Moderation, I believe, is the key. Too many parentheses, en dashes, em dashes, and virtually any other element of punctuation can be distracting, interrupt the flow of ideas, and come across as perhaps too chatty, too informal, too scattered.

If you find yourself using lots of parentheses, for example, read your sentences aloud to determine how they sound. Reread them for how they scan. Too many parentheses are like verbal hiccups. Eschew them.

As for the use of the phrase "to bear fruit," to me the phrase sounds a bit old fashioned. It is certainly quite biblical (if you are at all familiar with Jesus's upper-room discourse in the Gospel of John), but I'd need you to provide more context for how you intend to use the phrase before I make a judgment on its aptness and appropriateness.

  • Thank you for your answer. "My perseverance and determination bore fruit as I completed the course with a [..]" – Keir Simmons Oct 14 '16 at 6:22
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    @KeirSimmons. OK. Sounds good. I can live with that! Don – rhetorician Oct 14 '16 at 13:11

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