Brackets Copy

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Brackets serve to separate some text from the rest. The bracketed text may explain or qualify – or give an aside.

Bracket styles

Brackets come in different shapes (and sizes) and appear in pairs.

  • Rounded () – strictly speaking, these are called parentheses
  • Square []
  • Curly {} – called braces, rarely used outside of maths/computing texts

What to avoid when using brackets

If you decide to use brackets, make sure you don’t have brackets within brackets, or sets of brackets too close to each other on the page; it will look cluttered.

Keep the amount of text within brackets short.

  • More than one sentence is too much.
  • A long sentence can be too much.

Avoid having a whole sentence in brackets within another sentence; find another way of conveying this information.

How to use brackets

Rounded brackets / parentheses can be used instead of a pair of commas, or a pair of dashes, to surround an aside.

Commas, which are always used in pairs, show equality of the aside with the main message.

A dash – make sure is it spaced – gives the aside prominence.

Brackets (page 24) downgrade the aside the point where it can almost be ignored.

Parentheses might also be used to include a definition.

Under the new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), email senders of bulk mail have to obtain the prior agreement of recipients.

To allow for singular and plural, and to be gender-neutral, bracketing an ’s’ provides a catch-all statement.

On the first day, (s)he needs to complete an application form listing the title(s) of the course(s) being taken this term.

A single closing parenthesis/bracket is sometimes used to set off items in a numbered list.

1) item one

2) item two

Square brackets tend to be used to provide additional words to add sense to a quotation, that is, to provide context if it would otherwise have been unclear.

Curly brackets are mostly found in computer programming; they have no place in fiction.