2010-04-15

Smiling parenthesis in parentheses


Time for some trifling thoughts.

When writing you sometimes want to put a sidenote in parentheses, and then end it with a smiley.

This raises a question: Should you write one or two ending parentheses?

This seems to be an awkward problem for many. XKCD even made a comic about it (link at end of this post).

My solution is to use just a single parenthesis, so the ending parenthesis becomes part of the smiley. It just looks better that way! However, this way really sucks if you are writing in e.g. some chat system which automatically replaces smileys with small graphic icons. In that case the ending parenthesis just disappears and it feels like the sidenote keeps going on and on and the whole paragraph starts feeling unbalanced. So, if I know that the system will replace my smileys with icons, I will use double parenthesis.

At this point you’re probably wondering why I don’t show an example? I often overuse such sidenotes for some remarks, which is of course the reason I have even realized this earth-shattering problem. However, I have also realized that the best way to fix it is actually just to not use such sidenotes. Often the sidenote may actually be just a natural thing to say in the next sentence. Or perhaps you can consider using a footnote. I feel footnotes don’t work that well in web pages but I prefer them in print publications.

Anyway, I should save you the trouble (of constructing examples yourselves :).
Or maybe you already tried yourself (I know you did! :-) ).

XKCD comic

2 responses:

  1. Eli Green says:

    There’s a very simple solution. Korean smileys: ^_^

  2. rob says:

    Amazing. I wondered the same thing many times before but never heard anybody else do the same until now :-)

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