What is the difference between using brackets [ ] { }and parentheses ( ) in languages? For example, "I was walking along the road (the one leading to the dock) when I met an old man." Would it matter if you used [ ] or { } instead of the ( ) ?

1 Answer
May 15, 2016

Answer:

A paenthetical clause can be removed leaving a complete sentence, but is still attributed to the same speaker or author. A bracketed phrase is inserted by a different writer or speaker entirely.

Explanation:

Parentheses bookend a word or phrase that's not essential to the sentence it's in, but in a quote, it is assumed to be the words of the same speaker. "I'd still pay you for an unfavorable review (but probably not as much)."

Bracketed comments in a quote mean that the words are not precisely what the speaker said. "As Popeye would say, [He is} what [he is] and that's all that [he is].'"

Bracketed statements in unquoted text are inserted by an outside party, perhaps an editor or a moderator. They are not the words of the primary author. To use your example: "I was walking along the road (the one leading to the dock) when I met an old man [Editor's note: The man in question was billionaire recluse Howard Hughes]."