Parentheticals: Should I or Shouldn’t I?

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Talking About the Cases | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

It’s always better to discusses cases in prose, rather than in parentheticals. Prose is cleaner and more readable. Also, the decision to discuss a case in prose or parentheticals signals that you have assigned a certain value to a case. Your reader will assume that you discuss the most important cases in prose and that cases discussed in parentheticals are less important.

But if you don’t have room to discuss a case in prose or if a case is not central to your issue, you should cite the case and then use parentheticals to explain its facts. You should also use parentheticals to flesh out any unexplained-but-important details of cases that you discuss in prose, such as the procedural history or the result. If you use parentheticals to add new information, their substantive benefit will outweigh the stylistic hiccup they create. And the trained eye knows to peruse parentheticals quickly.

Here is an example of a parenthetical that fleshes out the background of a case:

The great weight of authority holds that a subsequent corrective disclosure “cures” a violation of Section 13(d) and precludes further relief. See, e.g., Gearhardt Industries v. Smith International, 741 F.2d 707, 715 (5th Circ. 1984) (amendment that disclosed intent to acquire control cured previous violations).

The Bottom Line:

Share the facts and result of every case you cite (unless the case involves a boilerplate proposition of law) but do so in prose if you can. Otherwise, use parentheticals. Parentheticals are not perfect but using a parenthetical is better than losing the information. Use it or lose it!

One Comment on “Parentheticals: Should I or Shouldn’t I?”

  1. 1 A Lawyer's Guide to Writing » Blog Archive Legal writing training said at 7:05 pm on December 5th, 2012:

    […] Your most important cases should always be discussed in prose, rather than in a parenthetical. The decision to discuss a case in prose shows that you assign a higher value to that case than to the cases that you discuss in parentheticals. But even if you discuss a case in prose, you might still need to write parentheticals to flesh out minor facts or the procedural history of the case. (And, yes, you should use parentheticals to share the facts of minor cases.) […]

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