BRACKETS ( )  [ ]

There are several types of brackets (called parentheses in the US):

The last two are mostly used in mathematics and computer specialities – so, we can ignore them here. Dashes and commas can sometimes replace the functions of brackets, but here are a few common uses for this punctuation mark:

  1. To encase information that clarifies or illustrates:
    • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) was a great success.
    • Mohammed Ali (formerly known as Cassius Clay) was one of the greatest boxers of our time.
    • Brackets (parentheses in the US) are very useful punctuation marks.
       
  2. To create the sense of an aside, or an afterthought:
    • The defendant (if he is to be believed) claims no knowledge of the crime.
    • The senator (laughably) denied misusing his allowances.
    • Television is one of the great inventions of the modern age (if you ignore the damage it does).
    • When a complete sentence is enclosed in brackets, all other punctuation is also enclosed. (And that’s a rule you should remember!)
       
  3. To enclose numbers or letters designating items in a list:
    • The purpose of punctuation is to:
              1) help the reader to interpret the text;
              2) add rhythm and meter to sentences; and
              3) avoid ambiguity. [List numbers more commonly use full stops: 1. 2. 3.]
    • Playing sports is good for: (a) fitness; (b) co-ordination; (c) recreation.
    • There are four types of brackets: i) round; ii) square; iii) brace; and iv) angle.
      Note: for more information on lists, click here.
  4. Square brackets are used to encase editorial comment:
    • He picked up the local newspaper [The Age] on his way to the Flinders Street station.
    • Editors use them to indicate erors [sic] within a quotation that is being reproduced in its original form.
    • They are sometimes used to set off an ellipsis to indicate that a large amount of material has been left out of a quote: “Once upon a time [ ... ] and they all lived happily ever after!”

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