1. Zack Winchester
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    Zack Winchester Member

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    Can you use parentheses in dialogue?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Zack Winchester, May 13, 2013.

    Hello everyone.

    Is it correct to use parentheses in dialogue?

    Example:

    “He eats like a pig. He always uses his hands (which he never washes by the way) and never uses his silverware."
     
  2. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    No. Never do it.
     
  3. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, because you don't speak in parentheses. Although the sentence wouldn't be ideal if you were using it in narrative, it may be okay in a conversation for your character to say, "He eats like a pig. He always uses his hands, which he never washes, by the way, and never uses his silverware."

    If you want the info in parentheses to come out, you could do it in a dialogue between two or more people, like this:

    "He eats like a pig. He always uses his hands --"
    "Yeah, and he never washes his hands, either."
    "It's disgusting. Why can't he ever use silverware, like a normal person?"

    You could also make the person think about how he never washes his hands.
    "He eats like a pig, always using his hands instead of the silverware."
    John nodded. It also occurred to him that Bob never washed his hands, either.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto the 'no's!

    for the reason given by liz...
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Since the parentheses are being used as an aside, you could use a comma or an em dash to accomplish the same thing. Those two things are much more common in dialogue.

    Just to clarify, I have no problem with parentheses in dialogue. To me, it's just a way of showing that the part in the parentheses is a strong "aside." It's almost as if everything in the parentheses is being spoken in a whisper. I think parentheses in dialogue can be a powerful tool (sort of like semicolons), though I can see why others have issues with it.
     
  6. ladyphilosophy
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    ladyphilosophy Member

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    It is used in older novels, I have noticed, such as Dickens, but seems to have fallen out of usage. It never seemed right to me. Looks strange.
     
  7. Krishan
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    Krishan Active Member

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    I've seen it used in various contemporary pieces of writing. There's nothing wrong with it - it's just another way of showing that something is spoken as an aside.
     
  8. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't understand why you'd prefer parentheses to an em dash in dialogue. It seems to me that when there are parentheses, it's unclear whether the language is meant to be spoken as part of the dialogue, or whether it's an aside to the reader, which would disrupt the flow of the dialogue. If the parenthetical language is given as an aside, I still think it makes more sense to use a dash or even commas. How is it that the speaker is conveying to the listener(s) that the information is an aside when it's in parentheses? Dashes and commas, or alternating dialogue all strike me as much better alternatives.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    not an em dash, thirdwind, as only the ellipsis is used for pauses in dialog... the em dash is used only at the end of an unfinished or interrupted bit of dialog...

    zack...
    you should get yourself a good punctuation guide and/or put a good online one in your 'favorites' menu, so you can check out these things on your own much more quickly than asking folks on a writing site for an answer...

    you can email me for my 'tools of the trade' list and a list of online resources...
     
  10. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I wasn't talking about pauses. I was talking about asides. In addition to unfinished or interrupted dialogue, you can use em dashes to show an aside, though I think most people prefer commas.
     
  11. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some people say you shouldn't have em dashes or brackets in dialogue, but you often see things like:
    "Jack's got all the girls running after him--but then, with his money it's not surprising."
     
  12. LordKyleOfEarth
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    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'll chime in with a no on parenthesis and a yes on em dashes.
    "He wanted to use a parenthesis--can you imagine that!?"
     

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