punctuation brackets


What are punctuation brackets? Do you often see them but ignore them, or worse, misuse them? Let us find out their purpose in the English language.

Punctuation brackets often includes additional information which is not part of the main content. They come in pairs– an opening and a closing bracket, placed before and after the additional information respectively. Furthermore, brackets also allow the insertion of editorial material inside quotations and can include a word, phrase, or even a whole sentence whichever is appropriate with the context.

Read on and find out about the meaning, usage, and importance of punctuation brackets.

Different Types of Punctuation Brackets

There are four main types of brackets: Woman in Blue Denim Jacket Reading Book

( ) – Parentheses or round brackets,

[ ] – Square or box brackets,

{ } – braces or curly brackets, and

< > – angle brackets or chevrons.

Although the most common types of punctuation brackets in writing are parentheses and square brackets, we are also going to discuss in this article the uses of braces and angle brackets.

Parentheses or Round Brackets

( ) – In British English, this symbol is known as round brackets, meanwhile it is known as parentheses in American English. Parentheses are often used for the following:

  1. to enclose an afterthought or additional information


  • I love taking care of my dogs. (I have cats too!)
  • Kim Jisoo (KPop idol) is currently filming her drama series.
  1. to explain or clarify
  • “The Hunger Games” is a dystopian (imaginary society with unimaginable injustice) novel.
  • Auditions are now ongoing for those who wish to join TEATRO (the school’s theater club).

In addition, parentheses also has also specialized uses:

  1. to indicate singular or plural

Example: Switch your mobile phone(s) off before entering the reading area.

  1. to define acronyms and abbreviations

Example: The Civil Service Commission (CSC) will remain on a work from home setup until further notice.

  1. to enclose time zones and area codes


  • Their new music video will air on June 30, at 12:00 MN (KST).
  • If you have any questions, you may contact us at (043) 123 4567.

Moreover, there are certain rules to follow when using parentheses with other punctuation marks. When inserting information at the end of a sentence, the end punctuation of the sentence should be outside the parentheses. Meanwhile, when additional information is in complete sentence, the end punctuation is inside the parenthesis.

For instance:

  • Many have been greatly affected by the eruption (even the animals).
  • Sophia is having a baby girl. (Her husband thinks it’s a boy.)

Square or Box Brackets

[ ] – You can use square brackets, also called box brackets, when the current author wants to modify another person’s words. These brackets aim to make quoted text clearer and understandable. The texts in the square brackets can clarify by adding explanation or by replacing some of the original text.

Here are the other uses:

  1. If the quoted statement includes a foreign word or phrase which is confusing, its meaning is enclosed in a bracket.

Example: Nini wrote on her latest Instagram post, “It was a nice experience to meet our fans here in Japan. Ki wo tsukete! [“Take care.”]

  1. Indicating errors. The term sic is a Latin word which means “so” or “thus”. It indicates an error or confirm unusual usage in the original material. Without sic, readers may assume that the current author made the error. Furthermore, because sic is a foreign term, it should appear in italic but the brackets containing it should not.

Example: When Mark saw her, he was perplexed. “Your dress compliments [sic] the color of your eyes.”

Here, sic indicates that there is an error. The original author wrote “compliment” instead of “complement”.

  1. When using italics to emphasize a portion of quotation, indicate the change using brackets.

Example: The teacher said, “Finish or not finish, pass your papers. I will not accept late papers. [emphasis added].

  1. Censoring Objectionable Content. If the original material uses strong language which might be inappropriate for your audience, brackets can remove it.

Example: “What the [expletive] did you do to my pants?”

Braces or Curly Punctuation Brackets

{ } – These type of brackets rarely appears in writing but they signify list items or equal choices.


You’ll get the chance to hear well-known singers {Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, John Legend}.

The list inside the braces are the exact, specific details and not samples.

Write the dessert of your choice {strawberry shortcake, blueberry cheesecake, mango graham, cookies and cream, almond fudge} on the order form.

Angle Brackets or Chevrons

< > – Angle brackets typically come in double pairs << >>. These are not common in English writing, but they appear in other languages such as Spanish and Russian as an alternative for quotation marks. For additional learning, below are some uses of angle brackets in English:

  1. to show action or status


“Leave me alone.” <<Pushes his chest and looks away>>

Here, the text in the angle brackets show action. These commonly appear in film scripts.

<<User is typing…>>

Meanwhile, the text in these brackets indicate status and are commonly found on online communication applications.

  1. to show a data field

Example: <<PATIENT NAME>> is admitted at <<ROOM NO.>> on <<DATE>>.

These functions are commonly used in mail-merge tools.

A Trip Down Memory Lane: Where Punctuation Originated Person Holding White Ceramci Be Happy Painted Mug

The history of writing traces a long way back. In fact, the earliest form of writing appeared almost 5,500 years ago. We call this complex system of characters as cuneiform. Technology became involved later on, paving a way for modern techniques in writing which we are able to use today. We have a system if of letters, numbers, symbols, and more.

However, it wasn’t until the 7th century when punctuation first appeared in writings. The first punctuation marks were the period, comma, and the colon which sprouted from Isidore of Seville’s idea. Isidore was a Spanish historian and a member of the clergy. He is sometimes called “The Schoolmaster of the Middle Ages” because of his help in shaping the education and the culture of medieval Europe. As discussed in the studies of Florence Hazrat, an English scholar, the exclamation and question mark was introduced in the late Middle Ages.

Still, the development for punctuation were far from over. Hazrat explains that “more and more signs of punctuation were invented to facilitate faster and more accurate reading”. In relation to this, the next revolution in punctuation occurred after the invention of the printing press. Hazrat further stated that printers in Germany, France, and Italy were not only craftsmen but educated scholars who are instrumental in introducing the use and looks of punctuation marks.

The use of punctuation became progressive over time. Through digital developments, creative symbols were added to facilitate effective communication such as emoticons or emojis.

Importance of Punctuation Brackets in General

Imagine a world without punctuation marks. Sentences, paragraphs, and communication will not be established. It would result to a havoc of misunderstanding. All of our writings will make no sense. We will not know when to stop, pause, and take a break. It’s like living in black and white, too pale and old-fashioned. Writing is life, but punctuation marks are lifer.

Learn the difference a single punctuation mark can make. Take a look at the online conversation below between a customer and store crew.

Customer: May I have garlic bread carbonara fries large cheese and diet coke

Store Crew: I’m sorry, Ma’am. We do not have garlic bread carbonara fries large cheese. Only diet coke is available.

C: But it is written on the menu

S: Oh, you mean you’d like a garlic bread, carbonara, and fries (large, cheese)?

C: Yeah

S: Okay Ma’am, may I suggest the next time you order, please use punctuation marks properly so we can minimize the delay. Thank you and enjoy! You may track the status of your order within the app.

C: Okay whatever

See how important it is to use punctuation marks even in daily conversations? In writing, we cannot assume how the other party interprets our message. If you disregard punctuation marks, your message might carry a different meaning. However, if you use too much, it can also imply a strong feeling. Learning to use punctuation marks will lead you to clear presentation of ideas which result to helpful imagery. It also saves you from stress from misunderstandings. We hope you pick-up important points from this article. Our blog is always open for your literacy needs. Happy reading and writing!


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