Parenthesis and All The [Sic] Stuff


I’ve long been a big fan of using parentheses, those curved symbols used to separate additional information that’s not necessarily relevant to the immediate sentence’s point, but still relevant to the overall point. A few teachers in my life noticed this, and tried to dissuade me, but I’m unrepentant, and unmoved. I don’t use them gratuitously—that is, I’m not using them just for the sake of using them (with rare exceptions, like maybe in this article).
I always use them in the correct manner, I think. It’s just that additional but not immediately relevant information often springs to mind when I write, whether it’s a short story or an email to friends. (I do, admittedly, use postscripts gratuitously, but that’s another story.)
The (small) amount of research I did for this post informed me that I’m not alone in this. William Faulkner was evidently another parentheses proponent (say that five times fast), especially in “Absalom, Absalom!” and “The Sound and the Fury”.
EE Cummings was another notable practitioner (although unlike him, I’m not against the use of capital letters or periods).
There are several types of parentheses, too. Often, all of these types are labeled as being various types of brackets, although in the U.S., the kind I use is usually considered the distinct, and different, parentheses. For example, the sort I’ve mentioned are the curved, half-moon-shaped symbols, ) and (.
Then there’re the squared off brackets, [ and ], called “square” or “closed” brackets, used mainly in quotations to indicate missing material provided by a later editor, in chemistry, or in certain types of math. Other types are curly brackets, { and }; angle, chevron, inequality, or pointy brackets, < and >; angular quote brackets, << and >>; and corner brackets 」「. Most of these latter types are rarer, and used largely in linguistics, math, hard sciences, or computer programming.
Curly brackets seem to have the most, and sometimes silliest names, called, among others, “birdie brackets”, “Scottish brackets”, “squirrely brackets”, “fancy brackets”, “seagull brackets”, and “DeLorean brackets”. I didn’t look up the reasoning behind this last one, as I want to believe that it has to do with the car maker (acquitted) drug trafficker, John DeLorean, in general, and “Back to the Future” specifically, and I don’t want to lose my plausible deniability.
I also enjoy that, within parentheses, all punctuation is independent. You can have an exclamation pointed sentence, and then another sentence with a question mark, etc., within the original sentence ending in, say, a period. This appeals to the rebellious side of me. (Perhaps paradoxically, I’m a strict constructionist on quotation marks, though—I hate, HATE it when stream of consciousness type books don’t include them, as I wish to conclusively know if someone’s talking, or if it’s instead a thought, or the narrator, or something else.)

Read the entire article in the September 2022 issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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