I use parentheses a lot.  Too much, my journalism and english professors would argue.  But there’s a reason for my “overuse” of parentheses.  They’re quite essential if my writing is to have a voice or any chance at life off the page and in the mind of the reader.

Let’s pick this concept apart piece by piece, beginning with the definition, shall we?

Parentheses (n.)- a word, clause, or sentence inserted as an explanation or afterthought into a passage that is grammatically complete without it, in writing usually marked off by curved brackets, dashes, or commas.

I think we can all agree that clear and thorough communication is of the utmost importance.  Whether or not a person understands you or relates to what you are saying could depend on just a few words that rephrase or add context to a concept.  The definition of parentheses clearly sates that they are “inserted as an explanation.”  And I think we can agree that explanations are important- essential even.    

I know what you’re thinking- “well, Summer, it also says ‘or afterthought’ and into ‘a passage that is grammatically complete without it,’  so, if the sentence is complete without it, it clearly isn’t important.”

To that, I have two points to discuss.  Let’s begin with the value of the “afterthought.”

Picture this:

You just picked up an avocado to cut.  You’re holding it in your left (non dominant) hand, palm facing upward, and cutting with your right (dominant) hand, blade facing downward.  You are about to cut into the avocado, but then you stop, think, and hesitate a beat, before setting down the avocado on a plate and using your left hand as a stabilizer rather than a holder.  By doing this you prevented the possible slicing of your own hand, had the knife slipped.  A painful, bloody situation avoided.  And all because of an afterthought.  An afterthought can be of great importance (parenthetically contained or not).  

Additionally, just because a sentence is grammatically complete does not mean that it is a sentence also complete in meaning, or potential, or message.  

I have trouble seeing parentheses as unimportant.  

Also, it’s just the way people think- in afterthoughts and interrupted ideas that get clarified as the mind processes.  parentheses are the most human- most natural– of all grammar marks…

How educators don’t see that, I do not know.

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