Parenthethical sentences

Vitellozzo

Member
Italian - Italy
Hi all.

I would like to ask you whether the use of parenthetical sentences should be, when possible, avoided in written English (the latter sentence being an example...)

Thanks!
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    In more formal writing I do find myself getting rid of brackets (sometimes). If you can write the thing almost exactly the same, but using semicolons or words like 'however' or 'whereas' instead of brackets and dashes, it might give a better appearance. (But be careful not to overuse semicolons and 'whereas', either!) The use of brackets and dashes can rather suggest a thought has just been popped in at the last minute. So carefully thought-out writing should contain less of them than casual writing. But if they're genuinely helpful, don't avoid them.
     

    Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    The parenthetical statement is my favorite rhetorical technique. In informal writing I use parentheses as a kind of subtext or Greek chorus commenting on the main message.

    I do not recommend this.
     

    Vitellozzo

    Member
    Italian - Italy
    Dear all,

    First, thanks for replying.

    I regret pointing out that my original question was not about phrases between brackets, it was about subordinate phrases between commas.
    I am sorry for not explaining myself well. Certainly, ending up with a phrase between brackets did not make the things any clearer...

    So, what do you think?
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I regret pointing out that my original question was not about phrases between brackets, it was about subordinate phrases between commas.
    First of all, you entitled this thread "parenthetical phrases," which, by definition, are phrases enclosed in parentheses (which the BE folks like to call "brackets") So you ask a question that you say you aren't asking.

    Secondly, whether such phrases are distinguished by commas, parentheses, dashes - such as these - or some other typographical device, is relatively immaterial.

    Thirdly, every device is subject to overuse.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Well that's a horse of a different colour. You mean parentheses in the classical or rhetorical sense, not just those marked by obvious punctuation. No, I don't think there's any stylistic pressure there. In my reading and editing I've never (= very rarely) felt that someone is overdoing subordinate/parenthetical structures. If they are, they're also making much more basic errors - someone who piles up ideas in a confused way might also use lots of parenthetical expressions, but that's not the main problem.

    A simple test is if your sentence contains lots of commas but no other punctuation marks. Can you improve it by elevating your main division to a semicolon? Or do you need all those commas anyway - can you just take two of them out and integrate a parenthesis into the main structure? In my work (proof-reading) I don't find people overusing (rhetorical) parentheses, but I do often find overuse of commas that could simply be taken out without any loss of clarity.
     
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