Of the fourteen different punctuation marks in English, learning how to use a bracket in grammar should be one of the easiest. Punctuation marks are a basic part of English grammar and must be understood. This particular punctuation mark has very limited usage in academic writing. Writers use brackets to add information to a sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence. This means that the writer can add words if necessary to make the sentence read more clearly or add a correction or comment to quoted material.
There are a few different types of symbols that can technically be considered brackets. Each pair of marks has its own rules for academic use. Outside of academic writing, they may all be interchangeable with few repercussions.
Check out the YourDictionary Punctuation Jungle infographic for an easy-to-understand visual explanation of brackets.
The most commonly used bracket in English is the parentheses. This pair of round brackets is used when a writer wants to add information to a sentence that will give greater detail to the information presented. However, the information is extra and not really necessary, which means that it can be removed with ease and without damaging the original information. Items placed in parentheses can often be set off with commas as well.
Sentence examples using parentheses:
Square brackets have important usage in academic writing, especially when the writer needs to add information to a quotation. Normally, a quotation must be presented exactly as it was spoken or written. The square bracket allows the writer an opportunity to fix mistakes, add explanatory information, change a quote to fit in a sentence, or add emphasis to a word through bold or italics. Similar to the parentheses, the information in the bracket cannot alter the meaning of the quoted material.
Example of square bracket use in grammar:
In this example, the words “in classes” do not appear in the original quotation but the writer wanted to add this information to make the sentence read more clearly. To add emphasis a set of words, italics were added by the writer that were not there in the original quote.
Angled brackets have very limited use in writing. They primarily set off highlighted material. The most common use for angled brackets is for placing URLs (Universal Resource Locator) into text.
Examples of Angled brackets:
This mark has extremely limited usage and mostly for poetry or music. An exception to this would be if a writer wanted to create a list of items that are all equal choices. Otherwise, this punctation mark would not be used in academic writing.
In all of these examples, the brackets set off, add emphasis or further explain information presented to a reader. The different brackets all have slightly different functions and overall limited usage in academic writing, but learning how to use a bracket in grammar is as easy as recognizing and marking the extra information in a sentence.