Tag Archive - usage

Do You Know When to Use (Those) Parentheses?

Parentheses sometimes confuse writers. When you want to put something in parentheses within a sentence, the ending punctuation goes outside the parentheses for that entire sentence.

Example:
I went to the store (but I didn’t buy anything).

With a separate thought enclosed in parentheses, the punctuation goes inside.

Example:
I went to the store. (Really, I didn’t buy anything!)

Want to get a little more complex? If you have two complete sentences inside a parenthesis, only the first sentence gets terminal punctuation:

Example:
The instructions (Place tab A in the slot. Leave tab B alone) were confusing.

If you are using a list of sorts in a sentences and you have something in parentheses, put the comma after the parentheses.

Example:
I bought eggs, celery (which was a little wilted), and crackers.

I hope (for everyone’s sake) that my explanation makes sense!

Don’t “Try and” Do Anything!

One of my big pet peeves is the “try and” construction, which many writers fall victim to because we have learned to talk this way. I see this often in published novels; obviously, the copyeditors and proofreaders of many publishing houses don’t catch this error either. When you use this phrase you are not talking about both trying and doing something else. You are talking about trying to do something.

Wrong:

Try and help me move this boulder.
I want to try and understand what you are saying.

Correct:

Try to help me move this boulder.
I want to try to understand what you are saying.
Try to pay attention to this often used but misused expression.

This also applies to the phrase “be sure and . . .” as in “Be sure and tell him I’m coming.” The correct way to say this is “Be sure to tell him I’m coming.”

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