Parentheses don’t belong in your copy—or do they?

Writing guides advise caution when deploying parentheses. Should you strike them from your copy altogether?

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He: Mom, how do you know when you’re supposed to use parentheses?

I: You use them around words that seem a bit out of place in the sentence. If you’re trying to explain something or make something more clear, or provide extra information, you put that in parentheses.

He: Then the reader doesn’t really need to read what’s in parentheses?

I: Not all the time.

He: Then why put that information in there at all?

Now, my son is not at all fond of writing. So my first thought after this conversation was that he was just trying to get out of writing anything extra.

Then I began to wonder if he was right—does the information in parentheses need to be in the sentence at all? If that information needs to be in the sentence, why is it in parentheses? Shouldn’t the writer just rework the sentence to include that information?

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