Thou shalt not use unbalanced parentheses for list item labels

Among the Commandments of my lab are:

Thou shalt not use unbalanced parentheses in numbered lists

I find lists like this an aesthetic and logical abomination: 1) first item, 2) second item, 3) third item.  The programmer in me cringes; the lover of symmetry cringes; and the lover of clarity cringes.  Why not include the left parenthesis, to treat the item labels as parenthetical remarks?  Why add a new meaning to the parenthesis, thus cluttering sentences with punctuational homonyms that need to be distinguished?  The aversion to this practice is shared through my family.

Now, on the website of the 2016 Evolution meetings is an example of why not to use these unbalanced parentheses:

Those interested in speaking in one of the Spotlight sessions below should submit an application to the organizer of that session (emails below in session descriptions). The application must include: 1) name, 2) institution, 3) rank (e.g., student, pdf, faculty), 4) names & institutions of co-authors, 5) a short abstract (max 300 words), and 6) which talk types you are willing to give (28, 13, or 5; the more flexible you are the more likely you are to be selected). Applications must be received by April 30, 2016. No financial support is provided to selected speakers. Additional details here.

Here, friendly paired parentheses framing side remarks, some containing numbers, are hobnobbing with their doppleganger asocial list delimiters. I find it difficult to scan.  This does not promote clarity.  The little lost parentheses are like fish bones getting stuck in my throat.

I need to go make some honeybush tea to calm down.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s