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Where should the period go when using parentheses? For example:

In sentence one, I use this example (which has a parenthesis at the end.)

Should the period be inside, or outside of the parentheses? What about if the entire sentence is a parenthetical (as below)?

(Where does the terminal punctuation go here?)

Is there a hard and fast rule?

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  • 1
    Same logic as this, methinks: english.stackexchange.com/questions/7548/…
    – sje397
    Feb 2, 2011 at 23:57
  • @sje397 Not quite. For quotation marks, several conventions exist (mainly en-UK vs. en-US). But parentheses are always placed in the same way (see JSBang’s answer). Mar 7, 2011 at 7:22
  • 1
    @Konrad - true. But, I am a programmer, so there's only one that makes sense to me ;)
    – sje397
    Mar 8, 2011 at 3:21

7 Answers 7

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The best rule of thumb for punctuating in and around parenthetical remarks is that the sentence should be valid if you remove the parentheses and everything inside them.

Here I have an example (with a parenthetical remark).

Here is the same example (with the same remark, even.)

Removing the entire parenthetical remark from the first sentence still leaves me with a valid structure, while removing it from the second leaves me lacking any terminal punctuation; thus the first is correct.

References:

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  • 17
    How about this one: I like bananas (but why?). Period looks kind of extraneous there...
    – StasM
    Sep 14, 2011 at 20:13
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    What about when emphasis is needed on the parenthetical statement, but not the entire sentence? e.g. The cops caught a thief (the one who stole your wallet!). Wouldn't you say the exclamation point goes inside the parenthesis then?
    – bobobobo
    Jul 16, 2012 at 0:06
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    I know this is an old Q&A post but I'd like to ask. I distinctly remember learning in grade school (likely over 10 years ago) that punctuation goes within the parenthesis. I'm not claiming this to be wrong. Instead, has this rule always been true or not really defined until the past 15 years or so? Maybe my grammar books were just wrong?
    – RLH
    Oct 28, 2016 at 15:04
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    I would expect your grammar book to say that terminal punctuation always goes inside the quotation marks (assuming "American-style" quoting, at least), but not to say the same of parentheses. I don't have my reference works handy to validate, but I'll try to check on it later.
    – Hellion
    Oct 28, 2016 at 15:12
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    @RLH I wouldn't trust English teachers on this kind of thing... they usually just say what they think is intuitively right. I would take the most logical answer (i.e. this one). Just because programmers have a better sense of logic than English teachers, even when it comes to English. (After all, if you're on stack exchange, who do you expect to answer if not a programmer?) May 10, 2017 at 17:19
62

If only part of the sentence is parenthetical, then you put the final punctuation outside of the parenthesis:

I enjoy breakfast (sometimes).

If the entire sentence is parenthetical, then you put the punctuation inside the parenthesis.

I enjoy breakfast. (I enjoy lunch more.)

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23

Place the period logically when parentheses are involved. In the first example, the period goes outside because the single sentence ends after the parentheses. In the second example, it goes inside because it belongs to the second sentence.

I like apples (and bananas).

He likes apples. (I like bananas.)

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    Agreed. These are the same conventions I'm aware of. It makes me glad I use British English. :)
    – Noldorin
    Dec 11, 2010 at 21:42
  • I also concur. Although I'm from the US, I find myself using the UK convention for quotes more often than not. Dec 12, 2010 at 0:34
  • Anyone know why the US handle the quote mark situation like that?
    – Orbling
    Dec 12, 2010 at 1:16
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    @Orbling: It's for reasons of typography. American printers thought that having the punctuation sign inside the quotes "looks better", so they typeset it that way. Dec 12, 2010 at 7:13
  • @ShreevatsaR: Sounds about right, style over substance. Thanks.
    – Orbling
    Dec 12, 2010 at 7:17
2

Well, I prefer using the British logic for placing periods even though I'm not only American, but I live in Texas. Since I don't want to portray myself as an ignorant person, I think a lot of textual decency. While I place my periods outside the quotation marks, I'm left feeling haunted by the idea that an American might think I'm the ignorant one since I'm putting periods after closing quotes when the text being quoted is part of the structure of the sentence itself, not a dialogue in a story nor a quotation of a complete sentence.

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Another "hard and fast" rule for placing the period, if you may: For a complete sentence, leave the period within the parentheses; for a phrase or clause in a sentence, leave the period without.

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I have an example sentence (which ends with parenthesis).

is correct, since you are writing the description of the word 'sentence' in the parenthesis and your sentence actually ends after that description.

It is like,

The cops caught a thief (the one who stole your wallet).

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-1

Put the period outside the parentheses if what's inside is a subordinate or dependent clause (meaning that it could not stand on its own as a sentence).

Put the period inside the parentheses if what's inside is an independent clause (this means that it could stand on its own.)

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  • Note that I wrote these sentences as examples of the rules they describe (in the first, the clause is dependent; in the second, it's independent.) I hoped they might serve as a bit of a mnemonic.
    – MT_Head
    Jul 7, 2012 at 5:49
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    What about the ending punctuation for the sentence in your second example? According to "The Grammar Bible" by Michael Stumpf, p. 537: "The punctuation for parenthetical items remains within the parentheses. Punctuate the primary portion of the sentence as if the parenthetical portion were not there."
    – JLG
    Jul 7, 2012 at 19:54
  • @JLG - Taken at face value, that can lead to double punctuation, which is generally considered undesirable (what if the parenthetical portion is a question?). If that's not a problem for you, go with Stumpf.
    – MT_Head
    Jul 7, 2012 at 20:21
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    Yes, it does lead to double punctuation...which is what you did with your sentence in your reply to me. So why would you object to a period at the end of the second example sentence?
    – JLG
    Jul 7, 2012 at 20:38
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    @JLG - I did that on purpose, as a demonstration. I dislike it; perhaps you don't. The rule I put forward is the one I learned in school, and the one I follow myself (when, of course, I'm paying sufficient attention). I am aware that there are other rules in circulation, such as Stumpf's. I don't agree with them, but I don't think it's a terribly huge deal: meaning and clarity are generally not lost either way.
    – MT_Head
    Jul 7, 2012 at 21:22

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