What is the correct way to use parentheses?

Use parentheses

to set off structurally independent elements


  • The patterns were significant (see Figure 5).
  • (When a complete sentence is enclosed in parentheses, place punctuation in the sentence inside the parentheses, like this.)
  • If only part of a sentence is enclosed in parentheses (like this), place punctuation outside the parentheses (like this).

to set off letters that identify items in a series within a sentence or paragraph (see also section 3.04 on seriation)

  • Example:
    The subject areas included (a) synonyms associated with cultural interactions, (b) descriptors for ethnic group membership, and (c) psychological symptoms and outcomes associated with bicultural adaptation.

to group mathematical expressions (see also sections 4.09 and 4.48 in the Publication Manual)

  • Example:
    (k – 1)/(g – 2)

to enclose numbers that identify displayed formulas and equations

  • Example:
    Mj = αMj–1 + fj + gj * gj' (1)

to enclose statistical values

  • Example:
    was statistically significant (p = .031)

(adapted from the sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual, © 2010)


APA Style Blog

APA Style experts and guests tackle a variety of style topics each week in the APA Style Blog.

Browse Learning Resources

Browse the APAStyle.org site by popular topics:

Bias-Free Language 
Crediting Sources 
Manuscript Structure and Content 
Sample Papers