How to punctuate with brackets

Posted on 23 October 2015 by Lucy Gregory

 
Brackets can cause all sorts of problems when it comes to punctuation. But it’s not actually that complicated. Here’s what you need to remember when you use punctuation with brackets.

1. A complete sentence in brackets

If you’re putting a sentence inside a set of brackets, you have two formatting options.

One option is to separate it entirely from the sentence before. In this case, you punctuate it as a normal sentence but with brackets round the outside:

We work with Climpson & Co to prepare technical updates for their readership of lawyers, accountants and finance professionals. (We knew our MD’s background as a corporate lawyer would come in useful one day.)

 
Alternatively, you can insert it at the end of the previous sentence. With this formatting, the bracketed sentence loses its capital letter and full stop. The full stop at the end belongs to the sentence outside the brackets:

We work with Climpson & Co to prepare technical updates for their readership of lawyers, accountants and finance professionals (we knew our MD’s background as a corporate lawyer would come in useful one day).

 
While both options are grammatically correct, all the writing authorities I’ve come across say it’s better to go for option 1.
 

2. A sentence fragment in brackets

A sentence fragment is a group of words that doesn’t make up a proper sentence.

A fragment in brackets will never have a full stop at the end (because you only put a full stop at the end of a complete sentence), but it might have other punctuation:

We work with Climpson & Co (who are great clients!) to prepare technical updates for their readership of lawyers, accountants and finance professionals.

Come in (quietly, please) and take a seat.

These punctuation rules aren’t as hard as I thought (don’t you think?).

 
Or the fragment might have no punctuation at all:

We work with Climpson & Co (experts in corporate and fund services) to prepare technical updates for their readership of lawyers, accountants and finance professionals.

 
The important thing to remember for all fragments in brackets is that the sentence outside the brackets must keep its normal punctuation.