Parentheses are mercurial beings in the world of punctuation. See one parenthesis, and you’ve seen ‘em all? Hardly. (This is because you have to see at least one more.)
How did they start, you find yourself asking. The same way anything starts, you find yourself answering: with a grand chorus of strings and a harmony of deep breaths (plus a wave of tiny click-clacks echoing from somewhere in the back). Next question!
Okay. Here’s what you need (like, really need) to know: A parenthesis is a single entity; a parentheses is a pair (or perhaps more) of them. Granted, you don’t usually see them individually, but they most certainly have a sense of individuality (and style to boot).
Research has shown that parentheses usually get together whenever when they WANT to. It really isn’t your choice. You may feel like you have some say in the matter, but that is (seriously) (totally) (surprisingly?) wrong. Do so much as twitch and the parentheses latch onto you, pouncing from the shadows (and, occasionally, from a well-lit area on the ceiling). They appear as a ghoul at first, then a song, then a thought, then a panther (oh dear), then a side thought, then a regular thought again.
That all sounds pretty spooky, man. Should we be worried? Nah. We’ve invented hats, tapestries, soup, and detectives while coexisting with these beings, and they’ve been happy with that so far. Keep going. Everything should balance out in the end.
This article is part of a series on punctuation. It’s pretty much all made up. Don’t underestimate the prowess of a panther, though. You’ve been warned.