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  • Writer's pictureHeather Wenonah Ellis

How to Use Brackets in Our Writing

Updated: Jul 12, 2021

Hello writers and authors,

Welcome Back to Clever Writer By Heather!

Where we encourage you to DREAM big, CREATE stories that INSPIRE others!

Today we will be continuing our Grammar and Punctuation series on the use of brackets in our writing.

In my previous blogs, we talked about:

Where to place the period when using quotation marks.

And where to place the period when using abbreviations.

Then we discussed where to begin our next sentence after the period, whether it was one space or two.

And we looked at the history behind that question.

If you're looking to dive deeper into these topics, then I invite you to check out my YouTube channel, Clever Writer By Heather.

Go ahead and click the subscribe button. And hit that bell that way, you can stay updated with my latest videos and writing tips.

Okay, why do we even care about the use of punctuation and correct grammar in our writing?

We have access to so many different AI editing programs online.

We can write whatever we want and run our documents through the editing software of our choosing.

I do the same thing. There are great programs out there.

But to be a writer, you have to embrace the whole process.

And it helps if you enjoy the whole process of writing.

At the beginning of my desire to be a published author, I hated editing because it intimidated me.

I didn't think I was good at it. In my formative years as a teacher, my training helped me hone the skills I was lacking.

Also, listening to my editor's critiques helped me develop more as a writer to hone my craft.

I strongly advise you to listen to your editors. They are there to help you be the best writer you can be in the marketplace.

My favorite part of writing is creating the story. Not the editing…But I know that editing my stories is essential in my writing process.

I have learned to embrace that part of the writing process…and I encourage you to do the same.

As we learned earlier in my previous post, punctuation creates pauses and accentuation in the flow of conception of ideas we generate in our storytelling.

Our job as writers is to ensure that our readers understand the message we want to convey in our stories.

Because if we don't, we could lose our readership and set ourselves up for frustration.

In today's blog, we will look at brackets' usage in our writing, both rounded and square brackets.

And how to place the punctuation around these brackets.

Understanding how to use this writing technique will help improve your writing skills and hopefully increase your writing confidence.

Sometimes, the most challenging part of writing is getting started.

Whether you're penning your first story or opening a blank page after finishing your last project—don't let that discourage you from writing your story.

Just write!

To help combat those moments of the doubt, here's some inspiration from best-selling author Jodi Picoult. She said,

"You can always edit a bad page. You can't edit a blank page." ~Jodi Picoult

All right, let's dive into learning some of the rules around using brackets in our writing.

If you want to follow along with the explainer video then click here.

Okay, let's begin with our first question:

What are brackets, and what are they used for?

There are two forms of brackets we use in writing.

Curved brackets and squared.

( ) [ ]

The curved brackets are what we know as a parenthesis.

A parenthesis is a rounded punctuation mark used to set off a remark that is not directly related to the discussion's main topic.


In writing, we use this punctuation in pairs. We call this parentheses, which is the plural form of parenthesis.

( )

We use parentheses to enclose information that clarifies or is used as an aside, an afterthought.

The information inside the parentheses can help the writer to convey a little more clarity of thought to the story at hand.

Note to writers…

It is common for writers to use parentheses in first-person narration for witty thoughts or amusing asides.

You want to use this practice sparingly in fiction writing.

As an author, we don't want to appear as an intruder in the story.

We could unintentionally prevent the reader from getting lost in the fictional characters and their adventures.

So, use with caution.

It is more suitable to use this technique of using parentheses in non-fiction writing.

Okay, let's view some examples of proper usage of parentheses in writing and the placement of punctuation around them.

Example: I finally answered (after taking five minutes to think) that I thought he was wrong.

Notice the extra information inside the parentheses. You could write this as a complete sentence without the use of the information in the parentheses.

This technique shows that the character's viewpoint is aware that she's speaking to the reader, allowing them in on a little extra information.

In this case, it helped to show how much time had gone by in the sentence. It took five minutes to think before she could answer him.

Now, if the information in parentheses ends a sentence, the period goes after the parentheses.

Example: She gave him an honest answer (it's hopeless).

All right, do periods ever go inside parentheses?

Let's take a look at another example.

Example: Read this book. (You'll be amazed)

Hmmm…where should we place the period in this example?

Periods go inside parentheses only if an entire sentence is inside the parentheses.

Correct: Read this book. (You'll be amazed.)

What about using commas around parentheses. Where do you put them?

Good question, let's find out…

Commas are more likely to follow parentheses than precede them.

Let's look at the incorrect and correct usage of commas around parentheses.

Incorrect: When she got back to her dormitory, (it was already dark outside) she finished her homework.

Notice the comma after the word dormitory.

This would be considered incorrect placement of the comma around parentheses.

Now let's look at the correct way to write this sentence.

Correct: When she got back to her dormitory (it was already dark outside), she finished her homework.

See the placement of the comma?

Okay, on to our next question…

Squared brackets? What's that?

Brackets are interruptions. However, they are not to be confused with parentheses.

So what do we mean by 'interruptions'?

It doesn't necessarily mean to interrupt another person speaking.

Square brackets are used to enclose words added by a speaker to clarify the sentence's situation.

Example: He [the firefighter] can't prove they are responsible for burning the building down.

The firefighter let us know as readers who 'he' is in the subject part of the sentence, clarifying who was the one who couldn't prove 'they' burned the building down.

Squared brackets are also used to explain or comment on a quotation.

They can help clarify the meaning in a quote without changing any of the original words.

Like this…

She said, "If you make me wear that thing [the ugly hat] to class, I'm ditching."

We wouldn't know what the 'thing' was she didn't want to wear in this sentence.

The information inside the bracket gives us insight into the thing was-an ugly hat.

Here's another example…

"Lexie held hands with [her boyfriend] Cody."

Again, we get insight into who's hand Lexie was holding.

Okay, next question.

Where do you place the final punctuation if the brackets are at the end of a sentence?

Like this…

Destiny testified that it was the last time she saw them [the artifacts]

In this case, where would you put the period? Inside the bracket or outside?

If brackets are used at the end of a sentence, we will place the period outside.

Like this…

Destiny testified that it was the last time she saw them [the artifacts].

Note to writers…

Square brackets aren't something that fiction writers often use, but they are commonly used in non-fiction writing.

In keeping with these new writing techniques you learned today, you'll be on your way to boldly step out writing your story.

I hope this blog helped you gain more understanding of using brackets in your writing.

Today we looked at brackets' usage in our writing, both rounded and square brackets.

And how to place the punctuation around these brackets.

Comment below, If this blog helped you in any way.

And remember, hang on to what Jodi Picoult said

to help combat those moments of doubt,

"You can always edit a bad page. You can't edit a blank page." ~Jodi Picoult

It's an excellent place to start as a writer.

So get started writing!

Get past that blank page. Just jump in and write!

Until next time,

Happy writing!

If you'd like to do further reading on my other writing tips, I invite you to check out my website, The Clever Writer Portal.

Or visit my YouTube channel, Clever Writer By Heather.



Beth Hill, Dealing With Interruptions,, September 2nd, 2015

Jane Straus, Parentheses and Brackets,

Grammarly, Parentheses and Brackets,, January 14, 2021, Parenthesis,

Katie Holdridge, Brackets and how to use them),, October 12, 2009

Oxford Lexico, How to use parentheses and brackets ( ) [],

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