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Brackets vs Parentheses: Understanding the Differences and Uses

Introduction to Punctuation Marks

Punctuation marks are essential tools in written communication. They aid in making written information more understandable and help to convey the author’s intended meaning.

Punctuation marks have evolved over time, and there are different types of punctuation marks that exist today. In this article, we will explore the development of punctuation, the types of punctuation marks, and focus primarily on brackets – their definition, types, and uses.

Development of Punctuation

Punctuation marks have been used for centuries, and its difficult to pinpoint the precise period they were first used. However, it’s believed that the early Christians in the 3rd century AD were the first ones to use punctuation when drafting the Christian Bible.

Back then, their main aim was to improve the readability and clarity of the text. As time progressed, punctuation became integral in the printing industry, particularly after the printing press was invented in the 15th century.

Printers were able to introduce punctuation marks more consistently and accurately, eventually leading to the standard system of punctuation that we use today.

Types of Punctuation Marks

There are several types of punctuation marks, each with its unique function. In this article, we will focus on brackets and their different types.


Definition of Brackets

Brackets are punctuation marks used in textual communication as tall, matched pairs that can hold text within text. Brackets have to be used in a matched pair, whereby each bracket opens and closes a section.

They can either be square [], angle <>, or curly brackets {} and are always used in pairs.

Types of Brackets

Square Brackets

Square brackets are mostly used to add clarification or modification to an original passage. They can also be used to enclose parenthetical information or editorial additions to a quote, particularly when the original quote has been changed to fit the context of the sentence.

For example:

Lionel Messi broke the [goals in a calendar year] record. In this statement, the writer is providing clarification to the reader that the record being referred to is the number of goals scored in a single calendar year.

Angle Brackets

Angle brackets are widely used in computer programming and usually used to contain code identification marks and ensure the software runs effectively. For example:

In this example, the angle brackets are used to indicate to the compiler that the following script is meant to run as part of the software.

Curly Brackets

Curly brackets are used in mathematical expressions and groupings. Theyre essential in indicating union and intersection sets that use the same description notation.

For Example:

{ X | X is a letter of the English alphabet}

Uses of Brackets

Missing Materials

If there is a missing material in a quote, a bracket is used to indicate this in the text. The use of brackets highlights any additions, omissions, or reasoning done to the text by the author or editor.

For example:

[The suspect] allegedly robbed the bank. In this sentence, the bracket points out that the writer has made edits or redactions to the original statement.


Brackets can be used to provide explanations in a text where further clarification is required. For example:

Im going to [the park] for a walk.

In this instance, the use of brackets indicates that the reader should understand that the author isn’t going to any other park but ‘the park’ in question.


When quoting another person’s work, brackets can be used to modify a part of the quote, particularly if it’s not relevant to the context of the author’s work. For example:

“I believe that [we] all have something we are born to do.”

Here, the writer has changed the original quote to suit the context of the sentence, adding more emphasis to the statement.


Brackets are also used in mathematics to indicate the order of operations when solving mathematical expressions. The use of brackets ensures that the set mathematical operation is performed first before others.

For example:

3 + (4 x 5) = 23

In this equation, the bracketed part has to be performed first before adding three.


In translation, brackets are used to indicate any additional words or phrases that were added to aid the flow of the sentence. For example:

I feel [very] happy today.

Here, the word “very” has been added to highlight how happy the speaker is on that particular day.


In summary, brackets are integral punctuation marks that are used to convey additional information, help with clarity and add deeper meaning to sentence structures. The different types of brackets have varying uses, and it’s crucial to understand how and when to use them effectively.


Parentheses, also known as round brackets, are punctuation marks used to set apart a piece of text within a sentence that clarifies, explains, or adds further information to the written content.

Parentheses can be considered a subtype of brackets and are commonly used in American English and other forms of written communication.

Definition of


Parentheses are punctuation marks used to enclose a section of text within a sentence, usually to provide information outside the main point of the sentence. They are called round brackets due to their circular shape and are found on most keyboard keypads.

Uses of



Parentheses are commonly used for providing further explanation or clarification to a sentence. This can help readers fully understand the intent of the author.

For example:

“He (my boss) is traveling for work.”

In this sentence, the author uses parentheses to clarify who “he” is, which could be confusing without additional context.

Enclosing Items in a Sentence

Parentheses can also be used to enclose items within a sentence, such as additional information or clarification of plural or singular forms. For example:

“The boy(s) played soccer.”

In this sentence, the author uses parentheses to clarify that the word “boy” could either be singular or plural, and the sentence remains grammatically correct.

Plural/Singular Forms

Parentheses can also be used to indicate the plural or singular form of a word. For example:

“I have one (and only one) sister.”

In this sentence, the author uses parentheses to emphasize the use of the word “one” to indicate the singular form of the word “sister”.

Comparison of Brackets and


Differences Between Brackets and


While parentheses and brackets have similar functions, there are notable differences between the two. For instance, round brackets are primarily used to enclose extra information that helps clarify the context of the sentence.

On the other hand, brackets are often used to enclose corrections, added commentary, or quotations within quoted misstatements.

Enclosing Materials

Parentheses are typically used to enclose material that is not essential to the sentence’s main point, while brackets enclose information that is essential to the sentence’s main point.

Nested Structures

Another difference between the two is how they can be used within each other. For example, parentheses can be nested within parentheses, but brackets cannot be used within brackets.

Specific Uses of Brackets vs


Parenthetical Materials

Both parentheses and brackets can be used to enclose parenthetical material, but parentheses are more commonly used. Parenthetical material refers to content that is not necessary to the sentence’s main message but can still be included.

For example:

“I visited New York (despite the rainy weather) last month.”

In this sentence, the phrase “despite the rainy weather” is parenthetical material because it provides additional information that doesn’t impact the sentence’s main message. Words/Phrases/Symbols

Brackets are also used for specific purposes, such as enclosing words, phrases, or symbols added by an editor or author for clarity within a quotation.

For example:

“The President stated, ‘the potestas [authority] derives from the people’, indicating that power is given to rulers by their subjects.”

In this sentence, the word “authority” is added by the editor to help the reader understand the meaning of the word “potestas.”


Parentheses and brackets are commonly used punctuation marks in written communication. Knowing when and how to use them can be vital in creating clear and effective language.

Understanding the subtle differences between the different types of punctuation marks and how to use each can help writers become more skilled at conveying their intended message. Punctuation marks, such as brackets and parentheses, play an important role in written communication.

Brackets, including square brackets, angle brackets and curly brackets, can be used for explanations, translations, quotations, mathematical operations, and more.

Parentheses, also known as round brackets, are used to clarify, add explanations, or enclose items within a sentence.

Although they have similar functions, they differ in how they enclose materials, and whether they can be nested within each other. Understanding the nuances of these punctuation marks will help writers to convey their intended message more effectively and make their writing clearer.

It’s important to use these punctuation marks appropriately to avoid any confusion or ambiguity in the reader’s understanding of the text.

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