Parentheses are extremely common in English writing, for those of us who do not what a parentheses is, it is what we call the curvy () brackets that we use to highlight certain material in our writing. A single bracket is called a parenthesis, but since these punctuation marks always come in pairs they are mostly referred to with their plural name; parentheses. Parentheses are used when one has to set off material that is not essential to the main topic but is still related to it, for example, when an abbreviation of a term might be parenthesized next to the term itself. Similarly, afterthoughts, comments or jokes can also be parenthesized.

Even though parentheses are pretty common, many people have trouble using them along with commas, there is a common confusion about whether there should be a comma before or after parentheses. The answer to this question depends on how and where the parentheses is being used, however, it is generally accepted that one should never place a comma before starting a parentheses.

For Example:

Instead of: After twisting his ankle, (and letting out a high pitched yelp) Jonny kept on insisting that he was perfectly fine.

Use: After twisting his ankle (and letting out a high pitched yelp), Jonny kept on insisting that he was perfectly fine.

You should keep in mind that placing a comma after using parentheses is not compulsory, it only needs to be done if a comma is as essential part of the sentence even without the parentheses present, like in the above examples, the sentence being used would need a comma to be properly joined since it consists of a dependent and an independent clause.

When using a parentheses in a sentence that consists if only one clause you can add in a parentheses without having to insert any commas at all. Another thing to note is that when commas are being used with parentheses, the rules that apply to the commas in the sentence will not apply to any commas that might be present within the parentheses. A sentence or phrase that has been parenthesized will be considered as a separate entity with its own rules and their own punctuation marks.

For Example:

Take the essential ingredients (butter, flour, and sugar) for the initial preparation.

In this sentence, the sentence outside of the parentheses does not need any commas, however the sentence inside the parentheses needs commas since it forms a series, without the commas the parentheses sentence would not make sense.

Once the initial preparation is done (at long last!,) you can begin prepping your oven.

Once the initial preparation is done (at long last!), you can begin prepping your oven.

The first sentence shows the incorrect use of a comma where the comma (which was part of the outer sentence’s punctuation) has been included in the parentheses where it is not required. Properly placing a comma is essential since a comma can have a significant impact over the entire sentence’s structure and meaning.