Legal systems descended from British jurisprudence seem to like to use a lot of parentheses in titles:

To the layman, these not only appear to be in random places, but go directly against usual practice: instead of using parentheses for parenthetical (additional) information, they "bury the lede" by putting the actual content in them.

What is the logic used to decide what goes in parentheses and what stays out?

(And yes, this question might also be a fit for Law.SE, but this is fundamentally about the usage of punctuation, not the law.)

  • In terms of grammar, nothing in parentheses should have an impact on a sentence if its removed. That doesn't mean that it doesn't convey something. But it still shouldn't be anything essential. This also means that, technically, if not practically, it doesn't matter where the content in parentheses goes. I can't see anything about these titles that indicates anything other than parenthetical information. If I read the titles after removing everything in parentheses, they still make sense. Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 5:59
  • Where there is a Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order there will usually be also a Foreigners Order and Foreigners (Other SubTopic) Order. The subtopic goes in parentheses. Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 9:00
  • The brackets are explanatory re context.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 4, 2023 at 19:04

1 Answer 1


"What is the logic used to decide what goes in parentheses and what stays out?"

The main phrase (excluding the parenthetical) is the essential Bill/ Act/ Law/ Rule/ Order. It is qualified where required by additional information in parentheses.

There could be several Orders under the subject "Foreigners". Among them, the one that deals with "Protected Areas" as related to Foreigners is titled as "Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order."

That logic and style of conveyancing is part of legalese, but nothing unconventional.

  • Thanks, but why parenthesize in the first place? Eg. US laws usually don't seem to do this. Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 7:37
  • As I said, it's style and convention (of hierarchy.) Without parentheses, you'll see no hierarchy, so the parentheses serve a purpose. Other variants may follow other hierarchical styles or methods.
    – Kris
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 7:43

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