myths about parentheticals

4 Myths About Parentheticals

Myth One

A writer needs to show when a character is laughing, smiling, winking!

Rarely does a writer need to do this – why not just put it in your scene description? Moreover, reserving a parenthetical for something like “(smiles)” just takes up unnecessary space on the page.

Myth Two

A writer needs to show a character on the phone

Do you need to put “(phone)” under every single line of dialogue? Top writers say they’re unconvinced it’s needed anywhere other than the first time they answer. Exception:

On the phone and talking to someone in the room in a back and forth conversation.

Myth Three

A writer needs to mention a character is singing a line.

This is a toughie. Often writers put “(sings)” before lines such as these. Then a few readers told me said they didn’t like it. What about italics instead?  They were divided. Then, because I watch TV with the subtitles on because others are sleeping, I noticed subtitles indicate singing like this:

MOLLY: # I can see clearly now, the rain is gone #

Myth Four

A writer needs to indicate a character’s accent and way of talking.

Things like “(Scottish accent)” or whatever under character’s name and before they speak. Why? You can indicate as a writer what region they’re from. (I’m Scottish ancestry)

LUCY: Pass me the salt, please

TOM: Aye, Lass.

Same goes for dialects or ways of speaking according to age – if your character is seventeen, they might say something like this:

JAKE: Shut up, you emo – it’s well-good!


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