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Brackets: parentheses, square, angle and curly brackets

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By Mary Morel

There are four types of brackets: parentheses, square brackets, angle brackets and curly brackets.

Parentheses ( )

Brackets: types of brackets and their uses

Parentheses, sometimes called round brackets or just brackets, are the most common brackets in business writing.

Use round brackets (parentheses) to add extra information to a sentence. You can use dashes or commas instead of brackets in some instances.

Would you like to meet up next Thursday (30 Oct) for coffee?
Would you like to meet up next Thursday – 30 Oct – for coffee?
Would you like to meet up next Thursday, 30 Oct, for coffee?

Which do you prefer – parentheses, dashes or commas?

I think parentheses are often more intrusive than dashes or commas, particularly if you use them to insert a large amount of material that interrupts the flow of the sentence. They are useful, but use them sparingly.

Square brackets [  ]

Use square brackets to indicate that you have added words or comments that weren’t in the original material.

I appreciate it [the nomination], but cannot accept.

Square brackets are also used to enclose the Latin word sic to indicate that an error was in the original text and not made by the writer.

Your [sic] going to enjoy our latest videos.

Angle brackets <  >

Angle brackets are also known as chevrons and are used in maths and physics.

They are not used much in business writing, but some people use angle brackets to insert an email or web address in a sentence.

Contact me <coordinator@mm.vom> to organise seating.

Curly brackets {  }

Curly brackets, also known as braces, are used in maths, physics and web development. You are not likely to see them in business writing.

Learn more about punctuation

Learn more about punctuation with my online course, An A to Z of Punctuation (A$39).