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Dashes, Parentheses, and Brackets


Dashes, Parentheses, and Brackets

Dashes, Parentheses, and Brackets


1. Use a dash to indicate an abrupt break in thought or speech.

  • The hurricaneit was massivedid not come on land. [The information it was massive is set off with dashes because it breaks into the sentence.]

2. Use a dash to mean namely, in other words, or that is before an explanation.

  • Claire is more than a sistershe is my best friend. [The dash here means that is. The words she is my best friend further explain Claire’s opinion of her sister.]


Use parentheses to enclose informative or explanatory material of minor importance.

  • Florence Nightingale (known as “The lady with the lamp”) began the modern nursing profession. [The information known as “The lady with the lamp” goes in parentheses because it is extra, minor information that does not affect the overall meaning of the sentence.]


Use brackets to enclose an explanation within quoted or parenthetical material.

  • “Our bodies need three to four hours of deep sleep [called “orthodox” sleep] each night,” said Dr. Ross. [Called “orthodox” sleep is in brackets to show that it is not part of the original quotation.] 
  • Easter Island (2,200 miles west of Chile [3,540 kilometers]) has mysterious stone statues. [3,540 kilometers is in brackets because it is an explanation within parenthetical information.]

Another use of brackets is to insert the Latin word sic into a quotation to show that an error exists in the original quotation. 

  • Susan’s report began, “James Joyce’s novel The [sic] Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is unique.” [The correct title of the novel is A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Adding the word sic in brackets shows that the mistake was made in Susan’s report, not in this quotation from it.]
Mr. ‏El-Sayed Ramadan ‎ ‎


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