Square Brackets

Punctuation Marks

Part 12

Square Brackets

[ ]

What are square brackets? What are they used for? Where should square brackets be placed in a sentence? What happens if I incorrectly punctuate a sentence with square brackets? These are some of the questions that will be answered in this workshop.

Square brackets are similar to parentheses, but they have a slightly different function. Parentheses usually contain non-essential, supplemental information.  The function of square brackets is to insert important clarifying information into a sentence. 

Examples:

•The woman said she was exhausted [after her long drive].

[after her long drive] adds important context. Also notice how the period comes after the bracket.

•He told her no [because he didn’t want a dog].

Again, [because he didn’t want a dog] clarifies the reason he is saying no.

•Paul was angry at her [because she ate his leftovers].

This is correct because the brackets contain important clarifying information for why Paul was angry at her.

Incorrect:

•The man was eating a sandwich [and he also liked spaghetti].

This is incorrect because his love of spaghetti is irrelevant. Irrelevant information doesn’t belong in square brackets.

Square brackets are an interesting form of punctuation because they are often used to clarify something that is already written or said. 3

[1] https://www.lexico.com/grammar/parentheses-and-brackets

[2] https://www.lexico.com/grammar/parentheses-and-brackets

[3] https://www.lexico.com/grammar/parentheses-and-brackets

For example, in a newspaper or magazine, you may read something like this:

•Colton’s wife told us, “The family always hated it [his plan to sled off the roof], but he never listened, and now here we are, forty-thousand in debt and two broken legs.”

[his plan to sled off the roof] is the writer’s inserted clarification. It clarifies exactly what “it” is that the family hates.

Another example:

•According to Principal Wordsworth, “We [the school] don’t have enough [funding].”

The information in the brackets clarifies the who and the what.

Brackets aren’t often used in everyday or academic writing, but it’s still good to know them and why they’re used. Understanding the rules is key for improving as a writer.

This concludes the workshop on square brackets. Please go back and re-read the information contained in this workshop before completing the square brackets worksheet.

After you’ve re-read the information in this workshop, test your knowledge on square brackets by completing the worksheet titled Square Brackets Worksheet. You’ll find it on our website. Just click on the menu section at the top, and then select worksheets.

If you have any questions, please feel free to post your questions in the Leave a Reply section below, or on our official Facebook or Twitter page. A member of our teaching staff will provide helpful feedback for your questions.

We hope you enjoyed this reading and writing workshop.

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