) Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

Knowing how to use parentheses correctly can be a challenge. Read here for a complete guide to what a closed paretheses means.

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

Question marks, exclamation points, quotation marks; there are so many punctuations out there, but one that is sometimes misunderstood is the parentheses. Whether you’ve used parentheses to make a smiley face, signify that you’re “whispering” in a text, or if you use them for their intended purpose, parentheses are an important part of the way we speak, write, and type. 

But when should we use parentheses? Are there situations where dashes or semicolons serve us better? What exactly are parentheses for?

Those are questions that this article seeks to answer. By the end, you’ll have a complete understanding of close parentheses and how to use them in your writing, texts, emails, and more. 

What Exactly Are Parentheses? 

Parentheses are a group of two symbols typically used to add a phrase in writing that is extra and nonessential to the sentence, also called a parenthetical phrase. It’s these two symbols: ( ). Many people think about parentheses as a sort of afterthought to the statement that was just made. 

The end parenthesis, specifically, is the second symbol of that group. It looks like this: ). This symbol lets the reader know that this extra phrase is complete and that the regular text is now resuming. The additional information fits neatly between the two punctuation marks. 

Here’s an official definition of the word parentheses

  • A pair of punctuation marks which look like round brackets used to contain text that is important for the reader to know, but not essential to the sentence structure

The word parentheses is thought to come from the Late Latin word parenthesis and the Greek word parentithenai. In British English, parentheses are called brackets. This can often be confusing, as the symbols [ ] are called square brackets in American English. 

Some Formal Uses

In most writing contexts, parentheses are used to add important but non-essential phrases, but there are a whole host of other uses for this important set of curves. 

Parentheses are most often used to indicate extra information to the reader. This information could include dates, official titles, relevant scientific facts, places of origin, relationships, and more. This is an easy way to add relevant information without breaking up the writing flow by adding another complete sentence or phrase. Sometimes, a set of commas or dashes could also be used in these applications. 

Parentheses are commonly used in formal academic writing to include an in-text citation. When making a statement of fact in academic writing, it is important to back up that statement with a credible source. Parentheses allow a brief citation to be inserted into the text, letting the reader know that the statement is supported by research. 

Sometimes, parentheses are used when making a list to assist with clearly marking off each item in that list. This is most common with letters, where people will list line items using (a), (b), (c), (d), etc.

Parentheses can also be used to introduce an abbreviation or acronym. When writing a long article, research paper, or blog post, it is often easier to use a shortened title for an entity with a lengthy name. So writers will write out the full name early in the article with the abbreviation put in parentheses. Then they will use the abbreviation for the rest of that given work.

You could also use parentheses to give examples of something you’re writing about. If you mention a general term and then want to give examples of that term, you could put a list of examples preceded by “e.g.” in parentheses.

What Are the Rules Behind Parentheses Use?  

As with most things in the English language, there are a few important rules surrounding the use of parentheses. Here are the things you need to know to avoid grammatical errors with your parentheses. 

First, if you are putting a complete sentence inside your parentheses, you need to make sure that the punctuation for that sentence falls inside the close parenthesis and not outside it. 

Next, if you only put a phrase or incomplete sentence inside the parentheses, you need to ensure that the surrounding sentence’s punctuation stays outside of the parentheses after the close parentheses. 

For example, if you put the parentheses at the end of the sentence, you would place the final word of the sentence before the parentheses and the period for that sentence after the parentheses.

What Are Some Casual Uses of Parentheses? 

But a formal writing setting isn’t the only place where you can use close parentheses. Many people will commonly use parentheses in text messages or emails to make emoticons. Emoticons are combinations of symbols and punctuations used to make a picture of a facial expression or another picture, and they became a big part of online culture (especially in the early 2000s). 

The most common uses of close parentheses in emoticons are with the smiley faces 🙂 or :-). Add extra closed parentheses to make it know that you’re extremely happy :))))))). You can also say you’re crying tears of joy :’) or even say that you’re drunk %).  

Over the years of forums, group chats, and social media, people have gotten quite creative with emoticons, coming up with symbols for all sorts of things from Santa Claus *<|:-) to lobsters V=(° °)=V to bandaids (::[]::) to the tie fighters from Star Wars |-o-| (-o-) |-o-|. 

What Are Some Examples of Parentheses in a Sentence? 

An example sentence or two can help clarify how parentheses should be used. Here are a few examples of them used in different contexts. 

For Extra Information 

This year, I’m spending Christmas with my grandmother on my mom’s side (the one you met last year). 

Martin Luther (b. 1483) is considered to be the person who started the Protestant Reformation. 

For a Citation 

The rules of parentheses state that parentheses can be used for extra information, citations, abbreviations, and more (McMillan, 2021). 

For Lists

We can’t launch the new product because (a) it hasn’t been tested enough, (b) the cost of production is still too high, and (c) it didn’t perform well in focus groups. 

For Abbreviations

  • The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is one of the most important civil rights groups in America.

The End Parenthesis

There are a lot of different potential uses for the ) symbol. But now you have a full understanding of how to use them in your writing in a formal and informal setting. So, go out there and use parentheses with confidence. 

If you need a refresher on closed parentheses and their uses, feel free to check back with this article for the info you need.


  1. Parentheses | Effective Writing Practices Tutorial | Northern Illinois University 
  2. Parentheses | Writing Commons 
  3. Parentheses | Cambridge English Dictionary