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.
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.”
Below are some of the most common rules and uses for brackets:
|Clarification in Quotes||If 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 Notes||During 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:|
– “The senior high school class asked very interesting question[s].”
– “Boram didn’t like [the] design.”
– “This was a big deal for the team [added emphasis].”
– “Money can’t buy happiness.” [please rewrite]
|Objectionable Content||We 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 Play||For example:|
[Alistair runs offstage.]
[Rian runs after him with the bat.]
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.
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.
Punctuation Marks List
Below is a list of the most commonly used punctuation marks in the English language:
|Common Punctuation Marks|
|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.
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.
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.
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.
|Confusing parentheses and brackets||The 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 Ellipsis||The 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.|
Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Brackets
|Language Lists||Grammar 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 Exposure||To 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 Exchange||To 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.|
Brackets Frequently Asked Questions
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