The Germans have another kind of parenthesis, which they make by splittinga verb in two and putting half of it at the beginning of an exciting chapterand the other half at the end of it. Can any one conceive of anythingmore confusing than that? These things are called "separable verbs." TheGerman grammar is blistered all over with separable verbs; and the wider thetwo portions of one of them are spread apart, the better the author of thecrime is pleased with his performance. A favorite one is reiste ab --which means departed. Here is an example which I culled from a novel andreduced to English:
We have the Parenthesis disease in our literature, too; and one may seecases of it every day in our books and newspapers: but with us it is the markand sign of an unpracticed writer or a cloudy intellect, whereas with theGermans it is doubtless the mark and sign of a practiced pen and of thepresence of that sort of luminous intellectual fog which stands for clearnessamong these people. For surely it is not clearness -- it necessarilycan't be clearness. Even a jury would have penetration enough to discoverthat. A writer's ideas must be a good deal confused, a good deal out of lineand sequence, when he starts out to say that a man met a counselor's wife inthe street, and then right in the midst of this so simple undertaking haltsthese approaching people and makes them stand still until he jots down aninventory of the woman's dress. That is manifestly absurd. It reminds aperson of those dentists who secure your instant and breathless interest in atooth by taking a grip on it with the forceps, and then stand there and drawlthrough a tedious anecdote before they give the dreaded jerk. Parentheses inliterature and dentistry are in bad taste.
When a complete sentence occurs in parentheses in the middle of a larger sentence, it should neither be capitalized nor end with a period—though a question mark or exclamation point is acceptable.
This isn't a comprehensive guide to period usage; that would take more time and energy than I can spare. Besides, you already know most of the rules: a period ends a declarative sentence, and sometimes is used in abbreviations. Still, a few things aren't obvious.
Whatever the material inside the parentheses, it must not be grammatically integral to the surrounding sentence. If it is, the sentence must be recast. This is an easy mistake to avoid. Simply read your sentence without the parenthetical content. If it makes sense, the parentheses are acceptable; if it doesn’t, the punctuation must be altered.
Yet even the German books are not entirely free from attacks of theParenthesis distemper -- though they are usually so mild as to cover only afew lines, and therefore when you at last get down to the verb it carries somemeaning to your mind because you are able to remember a good deal of what hasgone before. Now here is a sentence from a popular and excellent German novel-- with a slight parenthesis in it. I will make a perfectly literaltranslation, and throw in the parenthesis-marks and some hyphens for theassistance of the reader -- though in the original there are noparenthesis-marks or hyphens, and the reader is left to flounder through tothe remote verb the best way he can:
Much can be said against old-fashioned like end-of-sentence prepositions and . They're not particularly logical, they don't have much historical justification, and they're difficult even for native speakers to learn. But you don't always get to choose your audience, and some of your readers or hearers will think less of you if you break the “rules.” Chalk it up to snobbishness if you like, but it's a fact. To pick an even more politically charged example, Black English is a rich and fascinating dialect with its own sophisticated lexicon and syntax. But using it in certain social situations just hurts the speaker's chances of getting what he or she wants. That's another brute fact — one with the worst of historical reasons, but a fact still, and wishing it away won't change it.
There are ten parts of speech, and they are all troublesome. An averagesentence, in a German newspaper, is a sublime and impressive curiosity; itoccupies a quarter of a column; it contains all the ten parts of speech -- notin regular order, but mixed; it is built mainly of compound words constructedby the writer on the spot, and not to be found in any dictionary -- six orseven words compacted into one, without joint or seam -- that is, withouthyphens; it treats of fourteen or fifteen different subjects, each inclosed ina parenthesis of its own, with here and there extra parentheses whichreinclose three or four of the minor parentheses, making pens within pens:finally, all the parentheses and reparentheses are massed together between acouple of king-parentheses, one of which is placed in the first line of themajestic sentence and the other in the middle of the last line of it --after which comes the VERB, and you find out for the first time whatthe man has been talking about; and after the verb -- merely by way ofornament, as far as I can make out -- the writer shovels in "haben sindgewesen gehabt haben geworden sein," or words to that effect, and themonument is finished. I suppose that this closing hurrah is in the nature ofthe flourish to a man's signature -- not necessary, but pretty. German booksare easy enough to read when you hold them before the looking-glass or standon your head -- so as to reverse the construction -- but I think that to learnto read and understand a German newspaper is a thing which must always remainan impossibility to a foreigner.
Along with , a favorite of the traditionalists. Whatever the merit of the — and both historically and logically, there's not much — there's a substantial body of opinion against end-of-sentence prepositions; if you want to , try to avoid ending written sentences (and clauses) with prepositions, such as to, with, from, at, and in. Instead of writing “The topics we want to write on,” where the preposition on ends the clause, consider “The topics on which we want to write.” Prepositions should usually go before (pre-position) the words they modify.
This one is simple enough: never double up periods. If a statement ends with “etc.” the period in the abbreviation does double duty, serving as the full stop to end the sentence. If, however, you need another mark of punctuation after an abbreviation, you can put it after the period. So:
That is from , by Mrs. Marlitt. Andthat sentence is constructed upon the most approved German model. You observehow far that verb is from the reader's base of operations; well, in a Germannewspaper they put their verb away over on the next page; and I have heardthat sometimes after stringing along the exciting preliminaries andparentheses for a column or two, they get in a hurry and have to go to presswithout getting to the verb at all. Of course, then, the reader is left in avery exhausted and ignorant state.