Today, a writer’s ability to quickly connect with readers is critical. What allies do you have in your fight to engage readers? (Stick around and I’ll show you.)

Meet Left and Right: the Parentheses Twins.

My English teacher said parentheses were the tools of lazy writers. Wikipedia says “In most writing, overuse of parentheses is usually a sign of a badly structured text.”

All true. But irrelevant.

In skilled hands, a parenthetical statement enclosed in parentheses will help bridge the gap between writer and reader, puncturing the invisible barrier between the two. (See what I mean?)

They give you the ability to step out of the copy and into the reader’s space. You can even share what feels like a private joke (just don’t tell anyone else!), transforming your reader from skeptic to confidant.

Here are a few ways you can put them to work.

The Reinforcer

“More than 2,000 people have already taken me up on this offer (they’re making money as we speak). Isn’t it time you joined them?

Create an Action Picture

“Execs at technology-driven companies tend to frown and spit when you mention marketing. It falls below cleaning the restrooms and filing payroll taxes on the desirability food chain. Pitch a marketing plan (frown, spit) to these companies, and you’d better bring a spitton.”

The Humorous Aside

“In the last six months he’s been on the receiving end of so many fly rod orders that if you tried to order a rod in the parking lot before we fished, you’d wait 1.5 years to get it (actually, you’d probably get punched for coming between Jim and a rising trout, but I’m making a point here).”

Personal Call to Action

“The Elements of Style should be on every writer’s bookshelf (if it’s not on yours, stop reading and visit immediately), and owning two copies is more insurance policy than overkill.”


“It has to rank as the worst (the absolute worst) father’s day gift I’ve ever received.”

Parentheses are not a tool for formal writing. But the rise of blogs and Engagement Marketing is driving the conversation away from the formal and towards the informal.

In fact, write blog entries for engagement purposes, and your goal isn’t to sell – it’s to step out of the screen and connect with your reader.

Careful use of parentheses will help.

Still, my English teacher was right about one thing – the utility of parentheses fades with overuse. So insert them sparingly.

Use them to project intimacy and personality. Use them to step off the screen and make friends with your reader. Use them to share a joke.

Use them, and watch your connection to your readers grow (see, I told you it was worth the wait).

[tags]writing, copywriting, engagement marketing, parentheses[/tags]