Using Parentheses (Round and Square Brackets)
The Quick AnswerThis page offers an explanation on the correct use of parentheses (round brackets) and square brackets and gives examples of parentheses and square brackets used in sentences.
Round brackets (parentheses) are used:
- To insert extra information (often an afterthought, clarification, or expansion of a recently mentioned idea).
- To present a plural option with a singular one, e.g., Your guest(s) must leave before midnight.
- To make quoted text clearer by expanding on or replacing part of the quote.
- To make it clear that terms like [sic] and [...] are insertions by the current author not the originator.
Using Round Brackets (Parentheses)Round brackets are mostly used for inserting additional information into text. The additional information is usually an afterthought or an expansion or clarification of something recently mentioned. The big question with brackets is where to put the end punctuation. Does it go inside or outside the brackets? (There is more on that below and in this lesson on using round brackets.)
For brevity, round brackets can be used to show a plural option alongside a singular one. For example:
- Do not remove the pin(s) while the light is on.
Using Round Brackets for Additional Information
When using brackets, the positioning of end punctuation (usually a period / full stop ) follows logic. For example:
- She will ride a pony (but not a Dartmoor pony). In this example, the end punctuation belongs to the main sentence not to the parenthesis, i.e., the bit in brackets.
- She will ride a pony. (However, she will not ride a Dartmoor pony.) In this example, the end punctuation belongs to the parenthesis.
- She will ride a pony (She told me yesterday) but not a Dartmoor pony. In this example, the parenthesis is a standalone sentence within another sentence. When this happens, for readability, it is okay to omit the end punctuation.
Using Round Brackets to Denote Singular or Plural
- Remove the sheet(s) so the air can flow freely
- Please append the name of your guest(s) to the list.
Using Square Brackets
Also, square brackets are used with the term [sic] to show the text is how the original author wrote it. They are also used with ellipsis […] to show that some text has been removed.
Using Square Brackets to Make the Text ClearerSquare brackets can be used to add explanatory information to a quotation. For example:
- If you don't like them [my principles], well, I have others.
- If you don't like [my principles], well, I have others.
Using Square Brackets with [sic]
- In your statement, you wrote: "I appraised [sic] him of the situation at about 4 o'clock." (In this example, the writer is using [sic] to show that the word appraised was used by the original author. Obviously, it should have been apprised, not appraised. The term [sic] is often used to show a grammar error in quoted text was the originator's mistake and not the quoter's.)
Using Square Brackets with [...]
- I don't want any yes-men around me. I want everybody to tell me the truth even if it costs them their jobs.
- I don't want any yes-men around me [...] even if it costs them their jobs.