Effective communication through writing requires the proficient use of punctuation marks, as they play a vital role in conveying the writer’s intended message with clarity and impact. Moreover, punctuation assists writers in managing the tone and rhythm of their text, leading to engaging and effective communication with their readers. It’s critical for writers to master the skill of utilizing punctuation marks with accuracy to achieve their desired effect. This article will explore the function of braces and their correct usage.

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What are Braces?

Braces, also known as curly brackets or “{}”, are punctuation marks used to enclose a group of words or items within a sentence. They are typically used in technical writing, programming languages, and mathematical expressions to organize and separate items or to indicate that the enclosed text should be treated as a single unit. Braces are often used in pairs and can also be nested within each other, with the inner braces being referred to as “inner braces” or “nested braces.” Their function is similar to that of parentheses and brackets, but their usage is more specific and context-dependent. 

Let’s look at the following sentences where braces (or curly brackets) are used:

  • It’s hard to choose color shades {ochre, burnt sienna, burnt umber, metal brown}. 
  • Nina painted 5 numbers {1, 2, 7, 19, 20} on the art project she made.
  • The research noted behavioral changes in the subjects at their ages in weeks {2, 4, 7, 10}.
  • Choose among your students {Rayanne, Jared, Claire, Isadora} to bring along to the Math camp.
  • Which pizza add-ons is your favorite {mushroom, onion, bell pepper, pepperoni}?
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Braces Rules

The utilization of braces in writing is an infrequent occurrence. Many style guides and grammar resources do not have a designated usage for them. However, the table presented below outlines their primary rules and most common applications.

Indicate Choices or PreferencesBraces are used to show choices or preferences.


– Choose your medium {acrylic, watercolor, gouache, pastel} before picking out the right canvas or paper.
– Select one item as your freebie {bangle, clip-on earring, tiara, pin} before check-out.
– These are your only choices {leave with us, leave without us, stay} during emergencies.

It should be noted that the previous examples depict the use of braces to indicate equal alternatives or choices. The braces signify that each item within them is of equal importance or value, regardless of which one the person chooses.
Grouping SetsThe utilization of braces in writing can be identical to using them in mathematical contexts. Typically, braces can be utilized to present a set of people or items. For example:

– The club members {Yumio, Sandra, Hana, Nikko} are performing tonight.
– It only comes in this variety {collared, round, v-neck, crop}.
– All main dishes go with staples {garlic rice, mashed potatoes, salad, drinks} so it’s a full meal.

The usage of braces to present a set of people or items in writing is rare and can be considered a stylistic choice. As a result, many writers opt to use parentheses instead, as they are more commonly used for this purpose.
Braces In Brackets In ParenthesesBrackets can serve as a more elaborate substitution for parentheses. Additionally, braces can be used inside brackets inside parentheses. This is informal and only for style. It’s often called “nesting” and is used to make statements clear, add emphasis, and insert humor. For example:

– Johnny’s costume (a handmade [and detailed {really, really detailed}] armor) took hours to make.
– The news came from my friend Lexie (who heard it from a friend [who heard it from a cousin {who got it from a neighbor}] and told me).
– Don’t you think Thai food is (too [over-the-top {crazily}] spicy) for your taste buds?
Table of Rules for Braces
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Examples of Braces

  • Ryuy’s home (a self-constructed [remarkably {no, extraordinarily}] designed cabin was considered a landmark by locals.
  • Members of Saiko’s team {Raja, Taiki, Hak Wan, Rahel} are joining me to finish the project.
  • I’m not sure who volunteered {Alice, Carlos, Claire, Aida} to bring the supplies to the remote villages in Atreverse.
  • The information was relayed to me by the manager (who obtained it from his secretary [who heard it at the breakroom {from another secretary}] and then informed me) in a guarded whisper.
  • Pick among our trainers {Bogart, Alli, Darz, Star} to help you with your fitness program.
  • I would think that Spanish cuisine’s (playful [creative {insanely meaty}] flavor profile) matches a Filipino’s palate.
  • What dish should I add with the braised beef {seafood pancake, breaded pork, fried rice, seaweed soup}?
  • What summer camp class should I take {theatre management, basic acting 2, film appreciation, film production} for my second elective?
  • Choose an animal to be your companion {dragon, phoenix, griffin, sphinx} in the Crystalline Isles.
  • All rooms in Belmont come with {free WiFi, buffet breakfast, swimming pool access, gym access} for this year’s summer season.

Braces Exercise with Answers

Exercise on Braces

Determine whether the usage of braces in each sentence is correct or incorrect.

_______________ 1. Bobby highlighted four words {deadly, seven, virtues, sins) on the first page of the book.

_______________ 2. The movie’s premise (camp {ridiculous [insanely dumb]} storyline) was actually enjoyable.

_______________ 3. There are many mythical creatures {salamanders, undines, goblins that you can do a report on.

_______________ 4. You can choose drinks {soda, iced tea, fresh juice} to super-size. 

_______________ 5. Their online classes available {Creative PowerPoint, Canva Secrets, Unlocking Illustrator} are half-off.


1. Correct
2. Incorrect 
3. Incorrect
4. Correct
5. Correct

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Punctuation Marks List

Below is a list of the most commonly used punctuation marks in the English language:

Common Punctuation Marks
Punctuation MarkFunctionExample
Period [.]End simple or neutral sentences and abbreviations.– Let’s say she was one of the boys until she started high school.
– Krista didn’t want to eat seafood but Toni convinced her to try the new restaurant.
– This is the fastest route back to the compound.
Question mark [?]End interrogative sentences.– Aren’t you too old to be doing something as extreme as skydiving?
– Why does she think raising her children in the city isn’t ideal?
– This is the best spot in this street for watching the parade, isn’t it?
Exclamation point [!]End exclamatory sentences or sentences that express strong feelings.– I can’t believe it! You got me a vintage bag.
– Yes! I finally made it to the final interview for the job I’ve always wanted.
– “No!” Lita exclaimed. “I told you I should be there in 10 minutes.”
Semicolon [;] or Comma [,]Connect complete sentences or enumerate items in a list.– Betry has been collecting those books for years; she’s been obsessed with the series since it began.
– Felix had his art exhibit last month, and it was quite a successful event.
– They wanted to try food they’d never eaten before – grilled chicken skin, roasted wild goose, and fresh rolls.
quotation marks [” “]Signify quotations.– “Can someone go and check that out?” Heidi said when they heard the noise.
– “The only thing to fear is fear itself.”
– “You’ve done it before,” said Lyle encouragingly. “You can do it again.”
apostrophe [‘]Show contractions or indicate possessive.– The professor said that Peter’s paper appeared to be plagiarized.
– I don’t think challenging her is a good idea.
– Jam wasn’t prepared to present her thesis in Mr. Tag-at’s class.
Table of Common Punctuation Marks

It is important to recognize that the use of braces in writing requires a certain level of expertise. Proficiency in writing at an upper intermediate or advanced level is typically necessary to effectively employ this technique. Moreover, braces are primarily utilized in informal writing and are most prevalent in mathematical contexts.

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Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

Punctuation is an essential component of English grammar, and without it, sentences can be incomplete and difficult to comprehend. Various punctuation marks are employed in writing to convey meaning and improve readability. If we neglect to include these marks in a sentence, the meaning can be unclear, and the reader may not understand the intended message. Braces are a lesser-known and infrequently used punctuation mark that can be easily misused. It’s possible that you may never encounter a situation where braces are necessary for your writing, as they are more common in mathematical contexts. However, having a proper understanding of how to use braces can be valuable if the need arises.

Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand how to use the slash and brackets correctly.

Common Errors Made by English Learners

English language learners may find it helpful to become acquainted with the additional rules presented in the table below regarding the proper use of braces. Familiarizing oneself with these guidelines can assist in avoiding common mistakes while writing.

Common ErrorsExplanation/Example
Using the Word “And”There is no need to use “and” before the last item in a series of things set off in brackets. Such a series of words are treated as articles in a set rather than a list. For example:

– Our jewelry {earrings, rings, bracelets, necklaces} are usually sold in bundles.
– The hors d’oeuvres {canapes, crudites, caviar, sushi} were heavenly.
– She suggested an autumn palette {sangria, copper, cinnamon, honey} for the parlor.
Using Braces in Formal WritingUsing braces in writing is typically for stylistic reasons. They are commonly seen or utilized in creative writing. Avoid using them in corporate and academic documents.
Capitalization  Only capitalize the first letters of items within braces if they are proper nouns. The rest should remain in lowercase: For example:

– My dogs {Nookie, Pedro, Tyler} are all beautiful but lazy.
– The main actors {Meryl, Leonardo, Jennifer} alternatively hosted dinners for the crew in their trailers.
– Darna’s accessories {helmet, armor, whip} were gifts from ancient gods.
Table of Common Errors with Braces
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Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Braces

Learning StrategiesExplanation
Language ListsIn order to maximize the usefulness of grammar resources, it is important to choose ones that suit your preferred learning style and are easy to understand. These resources can be presented in different formats such as tables, charts, and diagrams, and although they cannot substitute for a thorough education, they make learning grammar concepts and punctuation easier through the use of patterns, rules, and user-friendly formats. Additionally, they often include real-life sentence examples to assist in improving vocabulary and sentence construction abilities.
Language ExposureClassroom learning alone is insufficient to attain advanced language proficiency in a short timeframe. Independent learning is crucial, despite the effort and commitment required. To understand how English punctuation is used in various contexts, one of the most effective approaches is to read creative writing and academic papers. It is advisable to create a personal reference resource by recording the various ways in which punctuation is used, and then apply this knowledge to your own writing when you feel confident enough.
Language ExchangeImproving your writing abilities involves more than just studying grammar rules. It is essential to engage with peers who have a solid grasp of punctuation usage. By doing so, you’ll receive hands-on instruction while simultaneously developing your speaking and comprehension abilities. If you’re currently enrolled in a writing course, establish relationships with your classmates and arrange a study session to exchange writing samples and work on exercises together.
Table of Learning Strategies for Braces
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Braces Frequently Asked Questions

Braces, also referred to as curly brackets, are a pair of punctuation symbols that isolates specific information from the rest of the sentence. Like parentheses (which are another type of bracket), they always appear in pairs. Braces have a unique appearance, { }, resembling a combination of square brackets and parentheses, with a small point in the centre.

One of their primary functions is to group related information or items together within a sentence or text, which helps to clarify meaning and improve comprehension. Braces are also commonly used to indicate options or alternatives within a series of items. For instance, if you were listing different colours for a car, you might use braces to group them together: {red, blue, green, yellow}.

In programming languages, braces are used to group statements or code blocks together. By defining the scope of a specific piece of code, braces ensure that it executes correctly and is properly organized.

Yes, but only if they are proper nouns. Common nouns shouldn’t be capitalized.

As a matter of fact, there are four punctuation marks classified as brackets: parentheses, square brackets, braces, and angled brackets. These symbols are sometimes used interchangeably in informal or creative writing.

Brackets, also known as square brackets, serve to indicate editorial modifications or additions in a quote or to enclose optional information. In contrast, braces, or curly brackets, are used to group related items or pieces of information within a sentence or text.

Additionally, braces can indicate alternatives or options within a series of items and are frequently employed to group statements or code blocks in programming languages. In essence, both brackets and braces allow for the organization of information, but their specific uses differ according to context.

Angled brackets, also known as angle brackets or chevrons, are a type of punctuation mark that looks like the greater than or lesser than symbols with one bracket pointing left (<) and the other pointing right (>).

In written language, angled brackets are often used to enclose various types of information, such as HTML tags in computer programming or mathematical expressions in scientific writing. They are also used to indicate the presence of inserted text or omitted material within a quoted text.

In programming languages, angled brackets are used to enclose parameters in functions, as well as to denote generic types or templates. They are also used in markup languages like HTML and XML to enclose tags, which provide instructions to web browsers or other software applications on how to format or display content.

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