Punctuation Tips: How to Use Commas With Parentheses
  • 3-minute read
  • 28th June 2023

Punctuation Tips: How to Use Commas With Parentheses

Punctuation with parentheses isn’t always straightforward. For example, should you place a comma before or after the brackets? Or should you use any at all? Fortunately, we’ve put together a quick guide to help you out.

Using Parentheses

Parentheses are the round brackets you place around parenthetical information in a sentence: ( ). Parenthetical information is additional information added to a sentence without disrupting the flow or meaning. For example:

I’m bringing a blueberry pie (and ice cream!) to the picnic.

Here, the sentence would be fine on its own, but the parentheses let us add an extra bit of context without changing anything.

Placing Commas After Parentheses

The information within the brackets should come right after the part of the sentence that it pertains to. If that part of the sentence is followed with a comma, then the comma goes after the closing bracket. For example:

I have a list of books to read this summer, (mostly fiction) and I’ve read three so far.
I have a list of books to read this summer (mostly fiction), and I’ve read three so far.

Generally, commas are used after parentheses when:

●  The parentheses are part of the introductory statement (meaning the first part of the sentence is introducing the next part):

Six months from now (at the end of the year), the apartment’s lease is up.

●  The parentheses are in the first of two independent clauses connected by a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so):

There are three cats in the neighborhood (that we know of), and one of them is a tabby.

●  The parentheses are part of a dependent clause in the middle of a sentence, which is offset by commas:

Maple trees, which change color in the fall (a deep red), are everywhere in this region.

When Not to Place a Comma After Parentheses

First of all, commas never come before parentheses. And if the sentence doesn’t need a comma at all, then you don’t need to place one after the parentheses either:

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Susan (an over-packer) brought two suitcases.

If you’re unsure whether to use one, try writing the sentence without the parentheses. If it doesn’t have a comma, then you don’t need to add one.

Punctuation Inside Parentheses

Should there ever be a comma (or any other punctuation) inside parentheses? Sometimes! Think of the parenthetical information as its own clause. If any punctuation is part of that clause, then it should be added. This includes ending punctuation:

The movie is pretty long (three hours!), so we should get snacks.

I don’t have cable TV (does anyone anymore?), but I have all the streaming platforms.

Even if the parenthetical thought is a complete sentence, though, you should never add a period to the end of it. And a comma should never go at the end. The only time you would add commas inside parentheses is if they’re somewhere in the middle of the clause, like in a list:

I have to pick up some ingredients (flour, eggs, and sugar) for the cake.

Conclusion: Commas With Parentheses

In summary:

  • Commas never go before parentheses.
  • If the parentheses relate to part of a sentence that is followed by a comma, then the comma goes after the closing bracket.

If you’d like an expert editor to check your work for grammar, punctuation, spelling, word choice, and more, send a copy our way! We’ll even proofread the first 500 words for free.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do parentheses need commas?

You do not need to use a comma with parentheses unless it’s already part of the sentence.

Do parenthetical expressions always use brackets?

You can express parenthetical information using dashes, commas, or parentheses, depending on what flows best.

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