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Punctuation: Parentheses

Parentheses Basics

Parentheses are punctuation marks used to set off information within a sentence. There are several uses for parentheses that are particular to APA style:

  1. To refer to tables or figures. Use parentheses to encase referrals to tables or figures.
    Example: Cub Foods sells twice as many gluten-free products as their competitors (see Table 3).
  2. To set off a component of a narrative citation. Use parentheses to set off narrative citations.
    Example: Cooper (1993) attempted to disprove evolution in her article, "Ain't No Ape."
     
    Example: It was clear that Hong Kong had been culturally colonized by the West (Gouper & Finn, 1987).
     
    Example: Boomer and Watts (2003) insisted that "there was little that could save NATO in its current state" (p. 54).
  3. To establish an acronym. Special format, including parentheses, is required to establish acronyms.
    Example: Douglas (1988) was a strong believer in the personal learning community (PLC).
  4. To set off letters identifying items in a series.
    Example: St. James University offered courses in (a) dental repair, (b) radioactive-spider testing, (c) peach cobblering, and (d) fairy tale indexing.

For more information about parentheses usage, check out section 4.09 of the APA manual.

Do Not Use Parentheses When...

  1. Enclosing material within other parentheses. Use brackets instead.
    Example: Smoking causes cancer (American Lung Association [ALA], 2004).
  2. Constructing a sentence using back-to-back parentheses. Use a semicolon instead.
    Example: Research has shown that students prefer a whiteboard to a chalkboard (Christensen et al., 2004; Lewing, 1994)