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Where does the question mark go — inside or outside the parentheses?

Consider this:

Even a fool gets to be young once (but not twice!). Do you understand?

The parentheses and the text within them are supposed to be a part of the first sentence. Note also that this is just a silly made-up example. These are not the actual words I'm dealing with in reality.

Question: Should there be a dot after the closing parenthesis?

marked as duplicate by user11550, MetaEd, James Waldby - jwpat7, Mitch, kiamlaluno Apr 13 '12 at 15:55

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  • 1
    Your question applies to other punctuation marks as well: Even a fool gets to be young once (isn't that crazy?). Do you understand? – J.R. Apr 9 '12 at 2:42

Yes, there should be a period after the closing parenthesis.

The general principle is that a sentence should remain structurally valid if the parenthetical brackets, and everything enclosed by them, are removed.

The text within parentheses can be a whole sentence (several sentences?), but I don't think it's acceptable for the "enclosing" sentence to continue after the closing bracket, if one or more periods (exclamation/question marks don't count!) appear in the parenthetical text.

Thus, for example, this statement ends with a period after the final word "here". (Following the principle outlined above, I can parenthesis multiple sentences, but in this case they aren't "part of" any enclosing sentence. Thus the second parenthesised sentence ends with a period before the closing bracket, after this word "here".) Even if there's no actual "rule" saying I can't, it would be clumsy if I'd replaced the word (and corresponding symbol!) "period" in that statement with "comma", and started this supplementary statement with "but even"!

  • @FF: that last sentence is a great example. You should post this over at the other question that's been cited, so it becomes part of the permanent archive on this matter. – J.R. Apr 9 '12 at 10:28
  • @J.R.: You're right. I didn't find that earlier question, or I'd have just voted to close myself. But I'll do that now and copy this answer over (but having come back later and slaved over an even more exhaustive "final final" paragraph, I guess I'll have to copy that over too! :). – FumbleFingers Apr 9 '12 at 16:46
  • Note that American style is to put periods inside the quotes, so for example the first sentence of your second para would be ... after the final word "here." I think this is a dumb convention and I don't use it myself, but American English teachers will mark you wrong if you don't follow it. – Jay Apr 9 '12 at 16:54
  • @Jay: I think that "American" convention only arises when the parenthesised text includes quotations. I doubt it applies here (though I could be wrong). I honestly can't imagine even a "dumb" American English teacher saying that period should have gone inside the brackets (unless I'd ended the sentence with a period after the word "here", and capitalised the word "Though"). – FumbleFingers Apr 9 '12 at 17:06

@FumbleFingers I was referring to your example involving quotes, not parentheses. I'm not aware of any rule saying that punctuation should arbitrarily go inside parentheses.

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