Should You Use Parentheses in Your Blog Posts?

Should You Use Parentheses in Your Blog Posts?

I recently had a client ask me if the parentheses I use in my blog posts were a turn off to readers or “the bots” that control search engine optimization. I couldn’t say, which of course, make me curious. Here’s what I found.

Should You Use Parentheses in Your Blog Posts?

Everybody has their own writing quirks. Some people adopt very formal grammar. Others rely on particular transition words more often than others. Me? I use a lot of parentheses (especially when explaining legalese). So imagine my surprise when a client asked me if doing so was hurting her SEO!

She had heard from a webmaster that symbols like § ” { [ and /  throw search engines for a loop and can cause posts to be lost during web searches.

Obviously, when you are blogging for business, the last thing you want to do is undercut your efforts by writing in a way the bots are going to ignore. So I started digging. I honestly wanted to know whether I should use parentheses in my blogs, or if doing so was hurting my SEO.

Search Engines Generally Ignore Punctuation

It turns out, the experts on search engine optimization say that punctuation really doesn’t matter to search engines. According to Pete Meyers from Moz:

“Best I know, Google ignores most extra characters unless they have special meaning. “$20” is clearly different from “20”, but “(Donna Snow)” doesn’t generally carry different meaning than “Donna Snow” beyond emphasis (and that’s very contextual).

Dr. Pete Meyers, Moz

That means for the most part, parentheses, brackets, and other punctuation isn’t going to help or hurt your SEO efforts.

There may be an exception to that rule, though. If your reader uses quotes in his or her search, such as “Chapter 11 Bankruptcy”, then the search engines are designed to only return results that match character for character. In that case, your blog post on “municipal (Chapter 11) bankruptcy” won’t make the cut.

The good news is most users don’t know to search using quotations marks. Since the search engine algorithms only use punctuation in a contextual sense (like the difference between dollars and numerals), in most cases, your parentheses aren’t going to hurt your SEO.

But What About Readers? (Do Parentheses Actually Help?)

Now that you know you have nothing to fear from the bots, does it make sense to start incorporating parentheses into your blog? It depends.

Parentheses, em-dashes ( like this  – ), brackets, and bullets can all help make your message clearer to readers. As lawyers, we are often taught to string sentences together with commas. But long sentences can be confusing for readers who haven’t attended law school. Replacing all those commas with parentheses or other punctuation can help set off explanatory clauses and make it easier for your reader to follow what you are saying.

However, If your voice or tone is already well-established in your law blog, making big shifts can hurt your credibility and make it seem like maybe someone else is writing it for you. So if parentheses aren’t part of the way you naturally write, you may want to incorporate them slowly over time, or find other ways to make your message clear.

Parentheses can be a great way to give your readers more information without overwhelming with long, hard to read sentences. Now that you know it won’t hurt your SEO efforts, go ahead, use parentheses on your blog. I know I will.

Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist in Ferndale, Michigan. She writes blogs and websites for law firms and small businesses. If you need help creating easy-to-understand content for your company’s website, contact Legal Linguist today to schedule a meeting.


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