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February 10, 2011

Changes Parentheses Bring




by Stefanie

As Valentine’s Day approaches, it seems to be a good time to note that context changes all sorts of things. A dinner out is suddenly laden with romantic overtones if the evening is that of February 14, and expectations for what might be in the tiny jewelry box offered at the end of the meal are sky high.

Are you sweating yet? Well, wipe your forehead and take a deep breath. Here we’re going to discuss some changes in style that occur within parentheses in academic writing that are, according to Onwuegbuzie, Combs, Slate, and Frels (2010), a source of confusion. Just as 24 hours in the middle of February usher in a change in expectations, so do parentheses. But in the case of parentheses, the changes revolve around keeping the message short (sweet would just be a bonus).

Parentheses typically enclose extra information: either citations, which provide source details readers may or may not need or act on, or an extra thought or illustrative idea that did not warrant full elaboration in the text. As helpful as information in parentheses can be, it also is an interruption to the regular text, so keeping it to the point is ideal.

To that end, here are some things that should be done in parentheses that should not be done in regular text:

  • Use an ampersand (&) in place of and in citations (and only in citations). For example, a citation for Solo and Skywalker (1977) in text would be (Solo & Skywalker, 1977) in parentheses.
  • What would be versus in text is abbreviated vs. in parentheses (e.g., the relative heights of jawas vs. ewoks), unless one is referring to court cases, in which versus is abbreviated v. (e.g., the unlawful imprisonment suit of Organa v. The Empire).
  • Other standard Latin abbreviations should also be used in parentheses rather than written out:

    e.g. for for example (e.g., the Imperial traffic stop failed to apprehend the runaway droids)
    i.e. for that is (i.e., those were the droids they were looking for)
    viz. for namely (viz., C-3PO and R2-D2)
    cf. for compare (cf. the successful apprehension of rebels during the Cloud City mission)
    etc. for and so forth (Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, C-3PO, etc.)

Please note in the examples that commas are used with Latin abbreviations where they logically would go if the phrases were written out. To help, here is a handy printable guide to Latin phrases.


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