Welcome to Writing Tip Tuesday, the Parentheses & Brackets edition. This is the fifth in a series of posts pulled from my free guide “On Not Writing Badly.” You can download the whole thing by filling out this form, or, if you’d rather not subscribe to my email list, you can simply check back here over the next several Tuesdays for a regular dose of word nerdery.
Parentheses & Brackets
Rule 1: Like a comma, parentheses can separate out incomplete clauses.
Example: My favorite ice cream (chocolate mint) is the most popular flavor in the nation.
Rule 2: Parentheses can be used to include information that would not otherwise fit.
Example: It wasn’t fully dark when we started walking (the sun had not set), but it was difficult to see.
Rule 3: Parentheses tend to de-emphasize.
Rule 4: Always consider whether the material should be another sentence.
Rule 1: Use brackets when you are quoting someone and need to add words or phrases within quoted text for clarity.
Example: “[Bob Jones] discovered a new element.” (Where [Bob Jones] replaces the “he” of the original quote.)
Rule 2: Use brackets instead of double parentheses.
Example: They wanted to have a picnic (it was a sunny day [in February]).
Note: When you find yourself needing brackets inside parentheses, consider reorganizing.