Does Punctuation Go Inside or Outside Parentheses?

Instructor: Susan Nagelsen

Susan has directed the writing program in undergraduate colleges, taught in the writing and English departments, and criminal justice departments.

We are going to take a look at how you punctuate when using parentheses, and when you are finished, you will be able to answer the question: Does punctuation go inside our outside parentheses?

The Ground Rules

You want to use parentheses to indicate an additional thought or idea. You might wonder whether the punctuation should be placed inside or outside the parentheses. Well, the answer might surprise you. Sometimes it goes inside, but sometimes it is placed outside the parentheses.

Using Parentheses
Parentheses

The Basics

Here are the rules to consider:

Rule #1

If the words that appear inside the parentheses are not a complete sentence, then the terminal punctuation, regardless of whether it is a period, exclamation point, or question mark, is placed after the parentheses.

Consider these examples:

  • We need your help (hurry).
  • When Montana is hungry, she craves apples (and peanut butter).
  • She loves meat (and veggies).

So, as you can see, it is clear that what is in the parentheses is something that is in addition to the rest of the sentence, but it is not a complete sentence.

Rule #2

If the words inside the parentheses form a complete sentence, then the terminal punctuation is placed inside the parenthesis. (This is true whether you use a period, exclamation point, or question mark.)

Consider these examples:

  • We need your help. (Please come quickly!)
  • When Montana is hungry, she craves apples. (But she has to have peanut butter on them as well.)
  • She loves meat. (She also loves to eat roasted veggies with her steak.)
  • We are going to the beach. (Make sure you pack lunch.)

In these examples, what is in the parentheses is a complete sentence. It can stand on its own, and this is why the terminal punctuation is placed inside the parentheses.

Rule #3

When the information in the parentheses is in the middle of the sentence, the punctuation is placed just as it would be if the parentheses were removed from the sentence. Commas will most likely follow the parentheses rather than proceed them.

Consider these examples:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support