Parentheses and Brackets Study Guide
Parentheses and Brackets
Grammar is the logic of speech, even as logic is the grammar of reason.
RICHARD C. TRENCH (1807–1886)
ENGLISH ARCHBISHOP AND POET
Sometimes adding comments or afterthoughts to your own writing or to someone else's (called editorializing) is necessary to enhance meaning. In this lesson, you will learn how to do this correctly.
Parentheses allow writers to provide extra information (in the middle or at the end) to clarify the contents of their sentences. When information is placed inside parentheses, it is called a parenthetical comment. Of the two punctuation marks you'll learn about in this lesson (brackets and parentheses), parentheses are more prevalent—not only because they have more uses in ordinary writing, but also because they are more functional in areas besides writing (have a look at your math book, for example).
Rule 1: Place information inside parentheses when you want to provide your reader with extra information (in the middle, or even at the end, of your sentence).
We ice skated (or should I say fell-skated) most of the morning at the pond behind the old barn.
Parenthetical comments are disposable; the sentence would still make sense without them.
Rule 2: Numbers (such as dates, page numbers, itemizing numbers, and the like) are frequently placed inside parentheses.
George Washington (1732–1799) was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia.
More information regarding the childhood of President Washington can be found in Chapter 2 (pp. 14–23).
Make sure you do the following before you hand in your essay: (1) revise for sentence flow, (2) edit for grammar and spelling mistakes, and (3) place the proper heading on the title page.
Make sure you do the following before you hand in your essay: (a) revise for sentence flow, (b) edit for grammar and spelling mistakes, and (c) place the proper heading on the title page.
Rule 3: Use parentheses for numerals that repeat and confirm a written number. This is sometimes done for clarity, and it is an optional rule to parenthetical usage.
Enclosed, please find thirty (30) sharpened pencils and fifteen (15) calculators for testing this week.
Rule 4: Use parentheses to enclose abbreviations or acronyms for spelled-out titles and names (or vise versa).
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) helps protect the rights of all citizens.
The UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) home office is located on the UN Plaza, in New York City.
Rule 5: Enclose an alternative form of a written term in parentheses.
Read the page(s) attached and respond ASAP.
[Interpretation: Read the page (or pages if there is more than one) attached.]
Please include the name(s) of family member(s) accompanying you.
[Interpretation: Please include the name (or names) of family member (or family members, if there is more than one).]
Brackets help writers clarify information by allowing them to insert an explanation or directions for the reader.
Rule 6: When you want to editorialize or insert your own comments within quoted material, use brackets rather than parentheses.
"[The legendary rock n' roller] Elvis Presley is loved by nearly everyone worldwide," stated Elvis's Fan Club President K. P. Jenkins.
[In this example, the words in the brackets "The legendary rock n' roller" were added to the original quotation "Elvis Presley is loved by nearly . . ." by the author of the written sentence.]
Rule 7: When altering the capitalization of a word within a quote to make it fit into your sentence or paragraph scheme, use brackets.
Follow your teachers to the auditorium in a quiet and orderly fashion.
Altered: Mrs. Vasta's directions to the students were clear: "[f]ollow your teachers to the auditorium in a quiet and orderly fashion."
"The captain mans the ship's helm each morning while his crew has breakfast."
Altered: The crew member reported, "The captain [manned] the ship's helm each morning while his crew [had] breakfast."
A practice exercise for this concept can be found at Parentheses and Brackets Practice Exercise.
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