How to Use SQUARE BRACKETS – Punctuation Guide

There is sometimes confusion between square brackets and parentheses, (sometimes called round brackets).

This video explains the difference and then provides 4 illustrated examples. The last example shows an important use of square brackets.

As the video plays, be sure to focus for a second on the picture, and then listen to the sentence example. This will help your understanding and memory.

Here is a transcript of the video “How to Use Square Brackets” . . .

Slide 2:
Note: The use of SQUARE BRACKETS is quite different from ROUND BRACKETS also called PARENTHESES ( ).

Parentheses are used to insert additional information in a sentence which is not essential to the meaning of the sentence.

SQUARE BRACKETS [ ] are used to make text clearer and to indicate words that have been added by someone other than the original author.
There is also a special use of Square Brackets we will explain later in the video . . .

Slide 3:
How to use square brackets in a sentence –
Notice in the following examples how the information in brackets makes the meaning of the sentence clearer and indicates also the words have been added by someone other than the author . . .

Slide 4:
“It is the hour [in French the ‘golden hour’] before the sun sets, when the light is very warm, the shadows are long, and the whole world takes on a certain romantic quality.”

Slide 5:
This photo is entitled “Watch the Gap” [between the train and the platform].
Times Square / 42nd Street Station after Midnight – December 2005 – New York City, USA

Slide 6:
This photo was taken during Vivid Sydney, an annual festival of light, music and ideas, when buildings are lit up around the city [Sydney, Australia].

Slide 7:
A special use of square brackets is with the grammatical device [sic].
The Latin word sic means ‘thus’ and it is used to indicate that an error in the original writing is intentionally quoted exactly as it was written. ‘Sic’ is usually italicized and put in square brackets directly after the error – [sic].

When reading a text, [sic] is not normally read out loud.
For example, The New York Daily News ran an article about a T-shirt manufacturer who intentionally used the word YOUR incorrectly, instead of the YOU’RE contraction. The insertion of [sic] right after the word indicates incorrect grammar which appears in the original text . . .

Slide 8:
T-Shirt by WET SEAL
The company is selling a T-shirt for girls with the following grammatically incorrect sentence written in shiny silver print: “If your [sic] single, so am I.”
Credit story and image:
New York Daily News
Fair Use

Slide 9:
In conclusion, remember round brackets or parentheses ( ) are used to include extra information in a sentence which is not essential.
However, you need to use SQUARE BRACKETS [ ] if you add words to someone’s writing to clarify and make the meaning clear.

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Now you know how to use square brackets, pay special attention when you write. Here is another part of the Punctuation Guide:

Image Credits:

Slides 1, 4 – sunset
Creative Commons

Slide 5 – subway
Creative Commons

Slide 6 – Sydney
Creative Commons

Slide 8 – t-shirt
Fair Use
Regarding the use of illustrations and photographs used in this video:

Fair Use
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Creative Commons Attribution Licence
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