Category Archives: technical writing

Why Do I Love Parentheses So Much? (Because They’re So Useful)

I’ll just jump right into it. Yes, the statement in parentheses used in the title of this blog post should really be between “Much” and the question mark, not after the question mark. But sometimes it looks so much better for the parentheses to occur after the first statement. I couldn’t help myself.

But today’s blog post isn’t about knowingly disobeying grammatical rules for the sake of vanity.* Today is about parentheses. While sometimes as a writer I do flirt with the occasional “i.e.” my love and devotion will always be for the parenthetical phrase enclosed between parentheses (interestingly, the word “parenthesis” indicates the phrase within the parentheses, and the term “parentheses” either refers to more than one parenthesis or to the pair of rounded brackets that share keyboard space with “9” and “0”). 

If you’ve read any of my writing, you’ll concur that I’m potentially obsessed with parentheses and may stretch the rules when it comes to utilizing them; CliffsNotes cut deep when they said “overuse of parentheses or dashes can be distracting to readers.” But trust me, I’ve been particularly aware lately of my possible overuse of parentheses, so I thought I’d take the time and the words to simultaneously sing their praises and acknowledge my weakness for context and anecdotal information.

WritingCommons.org defines parentheses as a “punctuation mark used to contain text that is not part of the main sentence, but that is too important to either leave out entirely or to put in a footnote or an endnote.” You might see parentheses used for the following purposes:

  • Spell out an acronym: Free fatty acids (FFA)
  • Extra information: Everyone was at the bar except for Kara (who was at home blogging)
  • Include dates and citations: Parentheses are awesome (ScienceKara.com)
  • Translations: iyay ovelay iencescay (I love science)

I’m sure my problem is that I love anecdotes entirely too much, but should I apologize for feeling the constant need to put things into context? No. I think context is highly underrated in modern day society. It’s a huge part of why we’re so paranoid of “fake news” and why it’s so difficult to know what is and isn’t true. Statements, verbal and written, are taken out of context to fit whatever agenda is on the table. 

I love parentheses because it’s my way of breaking the third wall – blog style. I love parentheses because I love fun facts and story telling. I love parentheses as much as I love similarly structured sentences grouped in threes. 

*The grammar rule is that when a parenthetical phrase is at the end of a sentence, the punctuation should follow the phrase. The grammatically correct version of my headline is “Why Do I Love Parentheses So Much (Because They’re So Useful)?”

So You’re A Nerd… Thoughts of An Expert’s Deskmate

Today I want to talk to you about nerds*.

I was eating lunch with several colleagues (almost all PhDs in some sort of biomedical science) and one mentioned a moose (for the life of me, I can’t remember the context). When I used the word “meese” to describe more than one moose, everyone laughed.

“Is that a word? Meese?” Someone asked.

“I don’t know, but I like it**,” I responded. “I love plural forms of words.”

That profession was accompanied by another round of laughter and some weird looks. “I’m a different kind of nerd than all of you,” I said.

This got me thinking. The idea of a “nerd” is so comparable to the technical concept of a “subject matter expert” (SME). Often people use phrases like “I’m a science nerd” or “I’m a Lord of the Rings nerd” or even “I’m a weight-lifting nerd.” For me, I am a word-nerd (This word combination also rhymes. I love rhymes and alliteration, further solidifying my status as a word-nerd.).

Depending on the subjects you’ve studied extensively – whether in the form of an intense PhD program in science or a lifelong obsession with various Lord of the Rings media, you’ll likely consider yourself an SME, a nerd.

I think this is particularly interesting because as kids, if you were a “nerd,” that was a bad thing. You weren’t cool. But I think having a PhD in foods and nutrition is awesome. I think having (both!) an MS in in food policy and nutrition and an MPH in health communications is so impressive. And I think poring over extended editions of Lord of the Rings DVDs and re-reading long, detailed fantasy novels is inspiring. I love nerds because you can learn all sorts of things from them, and the information is delivered so enthusiastically because as nerds, we love the things we know a lot about.

*Note: I wasn’t sure where this post was going to go when I started, but in recent months/years I’ve realized that I am a particularly introspective and inquisitive person. And because this is my blog, I can post all the musings about the world that I want to! Ha!

**Note: The plural form of “moose” is just “moose.” A blog post from Oxford Dictionaries points out the obvious association between goose/geese and moose/meese, so why does the goose/geese rule not apply to moose/meese? The same blog post explains that because “moose” is a “loanword” (taken from the Native American Algonquian language and adpated into English in the early 17th century by British settlers of North America), the plural ending of the noun is identical to the single form. Loanwords either follow this trend, take the standard plural ending (add an “s”), or adopt the plural ending of its original language.