I'm enjoying show-paren-mode using the "expression" style, which highlights a parenthesized region in a contrasting color. I'd like to define an Emacs Lisp function that could capture the region into the kill ring, as in M-w (kill-ring-save), but the region seems to be represented as an "overlay," and there is no function to capture it.

2 Answers 2


Try this:

  • If your cursor is after the closing paren: M-- C-M-SPC

  • If your cursor is before the opening paren: C-M-SPC

C-M-SPC is bound by default to mark-sexp. It selects the next N sexps. With a negative prefix arg it selects the previous abs(N) sexps.

(Oh, and it doesn't matter whether show-paren-mode is on or off.)


Using the source, I came up with this function:

(defun kill-ring-save-paren-overlay () "Save the current 'show-paren-mode' overlay into the kill rang" (interactive) (if (and (boundp 'show-paren--overlay) (overlay-end show-paren--overlay)) (kill-ring-save (overlay-start show-paren--overlay) (overlay-end show-paren--overlay)) (user-error "No parentheses are being shown right now")))

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