The use of punctuation marks is important for strong and effective writing, as they aid in conveying the writer’s message clearly and with impact. Additionally, punctuation allows writers to control the tone and pace of their text, ultimately leading to engaging and effective communication with their readers. It’s essential for writers to master the skill of utilizing punctuation marks with precision to achieve their desired effect. In this article, we’ll examine the role of brackets and their proper usage.

lillypad english learning app banner

What are Brackets?

Brackets are often confused with parentheses because their symbols look identical, but while parentheses have curved lines, brackets have squared corners. Also, brackets aren’t as widely used as parentheses They have several functions, the main one of which is providing extra information to a quote or a sentence. Information found in brackets is usually added by the editor or the writer.

Here are some examples to show how brackets are used:

  • Original: “Darlant Summer Camp was the best one for artists at my level. I learned to prime and apply different mediums such as gouache, acrylic, and oil. Overall, I think it was an amazing time.
    Abridged: “Overall, I think [the entire three months] was amazing.”
  • “I can’t [expletive deleted] believe they would [expletive deleted] me over after everything we’ve been through.
  • “This could work if we let Gerard handle the campaign [or perhaps not].”
  • “There could be permanent repercussions to the company image if we don’t release a statement regarding the incident [emphasis added].”
  • Samuel wrote, “Should you experience issues with the file, don’t panic […] and run the diagnostic program in the separate USB.”
lillypad english language software CTA

Brackets Rules

Below are some of the most common rules and uses for brackets:

Clarification in QuotesIf you want to add words to a quote that isn’t part of the original passage but will make it clearer or add pertinent information to it, you should enclose the additional words in brackets. For example:

– “She [the old lady] jumped out of the darkness.”
– “The two remaining contestants were both from Asian countries [South Korea and Vietnam].”
“sic”Defined “as written,” the word “sic” can be enclosed in brackets to signify that the quote is written exactly as the original despite minor changes in spelling and wording. For example:

“Mratin [sic] was the last person to see Jill in the bar.”
Missing Words or Editorial NotesDuring the process of editing, writers can include letters or words that are missing in their own or someone else’s writing to make the passage grammatically correct. An editor might also include their own thoughts or comments in the written text. For example:

Missing Words:
– “The senior high school class asked very interesting question[s].”
– “Boram didn’t like [the] design.”

Editorial Notes:
– “This was a big deal for the team [added emphasis].”
– “Money can’t buy happiness.” [please rewrite]
Objectionable ContentWe can substitute swear, inappropriate, or controversial words from a quote using brackets and an indication of what word was omitted. For example:

– “Their parties are always so [expletive deleted] boring!”
Indicate Omission by Using […]When quoting someone, it isn’t always necessary to include the entire quote. You can omit a long phrase or line and use the ellipses set off in brackets to signify that some words from the original quote have been excluded from the text. For example:

“They shouldn’t go out after hours because […] wild animals roam at night.”
Directions In A Script or PlayFor example:

[Alistair runs offstage.]
[Rian runs after him with the bat.]
Table of Rules & Uses for Brackets
lillypad english learning app banner

Examples of Brackets

  • Abridged: “The change of officers is a [great] thing.”
  • “I think it was a [expletive deleted] thing for a manager to do.”
  • “[W]hy did nobody think of doing this during the performance last week?”
  • “The board of directors will NOT be receptive to his mid-year plans.” [my opinion]
  • Abridged: “She adore[s] his quirks, which was completely surprising.”
  • “[translated from Japanese] We are honored to do business with our international friends.”
  • Mira wrote, “I was born in Milano [the Philippines, not Italy] in the 1970s.”
  • The report read, “She [Janice] told me to shred the files. I was just following orders.”
  • “Now that we know conclusively that double-crossed us, we […] take them for every penny.
  • “Rolando reported to the new branch Last Week [sic].”

Brackets Exercise with Answers

Exercise on Brackets

True or False. Write true in the blank provided if the statement is correct, and write false if the statement is incorrect.

_______________ 1. You can use brackets to make a quote more comprehensible.

_______________ 2. Look at the following statement and decide if the brackets were used correctly:

_______________ “The coffee is too sweat for my liking.”
                             Amended: “The coffee is too sweat [sic] for my liking.”

_______________ 3. Decide if the placement of the brackets is correct.
                            “My dog the muddy one on the rug was a [gift] from my aunt.”

_______________ 4. When we use the ellipsis to omit a number of words from the quote, we need one period for each word removed.

_______________ 5. If the text or passage is unclear, we can use brackets to add an explanation or to replace the unclear parts in the quote and make it clearer.


1. True

2. True

3. False: “My dog [the muddy one on the rug] was a gift from my aunt.”

4. False: We only use this symbol […] regardless of the number of words removed.

5. True

lillypad english language software CTA

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.– I was relieved that everyone in the group tested negative for the virus. 
– It’s healthy to binge-watch a series you really like once in a while.
– There were several remarkable facts at the museum that isn’t normally public knowledge.
Question mark [?]End interrogative sentences.– Why did you choose to stay on the opposite side of the island?
– Don’t you get sick of eating ramen noodles almost every day?
– What did Lenita tell them about the Netlink failure that damaged our system yesterday?
Exclamation point [!]End exclamatory sentences or sentences that express strong feelings.– Woohoo! This is the best road trip I’ve ever been on.
– Oh my god! I can’t figure out how he did that trick.
– Over here! It’s so crowded I almost didn’t spot you.
Semicolon [;] or Comma [,]Connect complete sentences or enumerate items in a list.– This is creepy; the house is so old, and I swear I can hear voices in some of the rooms.
– I’m going to need some sticky notes, a pair of craft scissors, and card stock.
– Are you hurt? I saw you slip in the grass, and I think you hurt your arm.
quotation marks [” “]Signify quotations.– “Fight him,” the villain said. “Fight him or your friends will die.”
– “These are the circumstances that define what a hero is.”
– Ricardo smiled, “Daisy had just agreed to go on a date with me.”
apostrophe [‘]Show contractions or indicate possessive.– We’ve all seen the posters, and it’s such a refreshing take on an old format and theme.
– I received Matt’s report, but it lacked coverage of the 3rd and 4th-grade tests.
– I can’t deal with one of Deena’s practical jokes today.
Table of Common Punctuations

It’s worth noting that using brackets requires some grade of mastery. You should be in the upper intermediate or advanced level in writing to take on the subject. As such, brackets are only typical in editorial activities, especially ones that involve citations and quotes from other people.

lillypad english learning app banner

Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

Brackets play a significant role when adding citations to or editing text. They are particularly useful for a number of editorial purposes such as replacing unclear text, adding information to boost clarity, or indicating spelling and syntax errors. It’s important for English language learners to understand the rules of bracket usage and use them properly in writing. With consistent practice and improving attention to detail, learners can become proficient in using brackets when necessary. Depending on the resource material, it’s understandable for English learners to be confused. The punctuation mark is called brackets in American English, but it’s known as square brackets in British English. What British English calls round brackets is known as parentheses in American English.

Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand how to use braces and the ellipsis.

Common Errors Made by English Learners

English learners could benefit from becoming familiar with the supplementary guidelines outlined in the table below that govern the use of brackets, as doing so can help them prevent typical writing errors.

Common ErrorsExplanation
Confusing parentheses and bracketsThe most common mistake for English learners is not knowing the difference between parentheses and brackets.

Parentheses are a type of punctuation mark that serves to enclose supplementary or nonessential information. They are commonly employed for providing additional explanations or personal opinions from the writer, as well as for clarifying abbreviations.

Meanwhile, brackets are utilized within quotations to indicate added text that was not part of the original quote. When citing another author’s work, it is advisable to use only the sections that pertain to your topic. However, there may be instances when a crucial word or phrase is absent from the selected passage. To address this, you can include the missing context within brackets.
Wrong placement of “sic”This error could be caused by carelessness in writing, which is why double-checking during the editing period is critical.

When applying this to your edits, always remember to write [sic] directly after the grammar error that you are referencing to avoid using it incorrectly.
Misuse of EllipsisThe ellipsis has 3 periods or dots. This is standard. It doesn’t change regardless of how many words are omitted from the passage. Some students mistakenly write four or more dots. This is a grammatical error.
Table of Common Errors with Brackets
LillyPad english language app CTA icon

Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Brackets

Learning StrategiesExplanation
Language ListsGrammar resources contain a substantial amount of information presented in various formats like tables, charts, and diagrams. To enhance their utility, it is essential to select resources that align with your learning style and are easy to comprehend. While these resources cannot replace comprehensive learning, they simplify grammar concepts, including punctuation, through patterns, rules, and easy-to-understand formats. They also provide practical sentence examples from real-life situations to help improve your vocabulary and sentence construction skills.
Language ExposureTo achieve advanced language proficiency within a short period of time, classroom learning alone is inadequate. Therefore, independent learning is still a key factor, even though it demands great effort and dedication. Reading creative writing and academic papers is one of the most effective ways to comprehend how English punctuation is employed in diverse contexts. Try to create your own reference material by copying the various ways punctuations are used, and when you’re ready, apply what you’ve learned to your own writing.
Language ExchangeTo enhance your writing skills, it’s also important to talk to fellow students who possess experience in punctuation usage. Not only will you get first-hand instruction but you’ll also be able to improve your speaking and comprehension skills at the same time. If you are already enrolled in a writing class, cultivate friendships with your classmates and organize a study time where you can share each other’s writing and do practice exercises together.
Table of Learning Strategies for Brackets
lillypad english learning app banner

Brackets Frequently Asked Questions

In writing, brackets are punctuation marks that are used to enclose additional or explanatory material within a sentence or quotation. They are typically used to add clarity to a statement or to modify a quote without changing its original meaning.

Brackets are characterized by their square shape and are often used interchangeably with parentheses, although brackets are more commonly used to enclose text within a direct quote, while parentheses are used to include information that is not part of a quote.

One of the most common errors when using brackets in academic writing is the overuse or misuse of brackets within a sentence.

Many writers mistakenly believe that brackets can be used to simply add additional information or clarifications to a sentence, similar to the way that they might use parentheses. However, overusing brackets in this manner can make a sentence feel disjointed or difficult to read, and can even detract from the overall clarity and effectiveness of the writing.
To avoid this, writers should use brackets purposefully and only include bracketed material when it is truly necessary to provide additional context or clarification to a sentence or quotation.

Additionally, writers should take care to properly integrate bracketed material into their sentences, adjusting the surrounding syntax and grammar as necessary to ensure that the bracketed text flows smoothly with the rest of the writing.

In academic writing, especially during the editing process or when amending your own writing, use brackets for additional information that’s missing from the original quotation to strengthen clearness.

If you need to include additional information that is not part of a quotation, parentheses are the appropriate choice, while brackets are typically reserved for adding text to a direct quote.

The bracket [ ] or square bracket in British English has other similar symbols in academic writing. Below are the other three:

( ): parentheses or round bracket (British English)
{ }: brace or curly bracket (British English)
< >: pointy bracket or inequality sign

Parentheses and brackets are punctuation marks that are used to set off additional information or to modify the meaning of a sentence. Parentheses are usually used to indicate that the enclosed material is secondary or incidental to the main meaning of the sentence, while brackets are typically used to add editorial comments, corrections, or translations to a quote.

Brackets are necessary for various reasons in writing. One of the primary purposes of brackets is to clarify or add information to a statement or quotation. They are used to enclose words, phrases, or sentences that are added to the original text but are not part of it, indicating that the words within the brackets are not the author’s original words.

Brackets are also used in mathematical expressions, to enclose editorial comments or notes, and to denote omitted material in a quotation.

In academic writing, brackets can be used to clarify references, provide additional information, or indicate corrections or changes made to a quoted passage. Therefore, brackets are necessary to ensure clarity and accuracy in writing.

English Grammar Learning Infographic

Learn from History – Follow the Science – Listen to the Experts

For learners of all ages striving to improve their English, LillyPad combines the most scientifically studied and recommended path to achieving English fluency and proficiency with today’s most brilliant technologies!

What’s the one thing that makes LillyPad so special? Lilly! Lilly’s a personal English tutor, and has people talking all over the world! Lilly makes improving your English easy. With Lilly, you can read in four different ways, and you can read just about anything you love. And learning with Lilly, well that’s what you call liberating!

Additionally, the platform incorporates goal-setting capabilities, essential tracking & reporting, gamification, anywhere-anytime convenience, and significant cost savings compared to traditional tutoring methodologies.

At LillyPad, everything we do is focused on delivering a personalized journey that is meaningful and life-changing for our members. LillyPad isn’t just the next chapter in English learning…

…it’s a whole new story!

Do you want to improve your English? Visit

Follow us on Facebook or Instagram!

lillypad english learning app icon