How To Use Parentheses And Square Brackets

How To Use Parentheses And Square Brackets

Here is a detailed guide on how to appropriately use parentheses and square brackets. Improve your punctuation inventory with VideoJug's helpful guide.

Step 1: Bracketing parentheses

Parentheses are the posh name for what most of us call brackets – they're also known as round brackets. Parentheses can be used in the same way as a pair of dashes or a bracketing comma: They indicate a strong interruption in the flow of the sentence. The words within parentheses should represent an aside from the writer to the reader:

Although Barcelona is one of the most sociable places on earth (especially if you enjoy sitting in cafes) you will rue the day you forgot your manners there.

You will notice that everything inside the brackets could be removed and the remaining sentence still makes sense:

Although Barcelona is one of the most sociable places on earth you will rue the day you forgot your manners there.

Step 2: Extra information

You can include extra information in brackets:
The rock star Kurt Cobain (1967 – 1994) was a major influence on a whole generation of musicians.

Step 3: Options

Sometimes, particularly in forms or official documents, it may be necessary to use parentheses to illustrate options:
Your teacher(s) may not always know the name(s) of your sibling(s).

Step 4: Listing

If you are writing a list and you want to use either numbers or letters to mark each separate point, they should appear in parentheses:

To get into the club you should make sure you are
(a) not wearing trainers
(b) not visibly drunk, and
(c) on the guest list.

Step 5: Square brackets in quotes

You should only ever use square brackets to clarify a point, or insert additional information into a direct quote:

“These two nations [Russia and America] seem to sway the destinies of half the globe.”

The original quote did not make it obvious which two nations are referred to, but the addition of the square brackets is a good way of making that clear.

You can also use square brackets to add words to a quote, or to replace words without changing the original meaning of the sentence:

“I'm sure it

always like that.”

Step 6: Full stops and brackets

Always remember that a full stop always falls outside the brackets at the end of the sentence.