Parentheses, Brackets and Ellipses

Oh what a beautiful day!

Parentheses, Brackets and Ellipses

This English Language quiz is called 'Parentheses, Brackets and Ellipses' and it has been written by teachers to help you if you are studying the subject at middle school. Playing educational quizzes is a fabulous way to learn if you are in the 6th, 7th or 8th grade - aged 11 to 14.

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Now that you have a better understanding of language and words and how they relate to each other, it’s time to start to focus on using those words and putting them into creative written forms. When writing down stories, journals, book reports and letters, certain characters (or punctuation marks) are used to show emphases or clarifications to the readers.

Although there are a number of ways to convey what is to be emphasized, there are three standard methods all writers will use. These three methods include the use of parentheses, brackets and ellipses.

Parentheses ( ), as you may recall, are marks that are placed around information that is not actually needed in a sentence but includes items that the writer is using to clarify information or to provide the reader with additional knowledge. For example, let’s look at the following sentence:

John walked up to the very top of the Washington Monument (too many steps to bother counting) to see a bird’s eye view of the city.

In this sentence the writer wants the reader to know that John walked up to the very top of the Washington Monument to see a bird’s eye view of the city. The words in between the parentheses are not needed to make this a complete sentence as “too many steps to bother counting” is only added as an aside note but has nothing to do with the message being conveyed by the writer. However, with the words contained in the parentheses, the reader has an idea that there were a lot of steps climbed to get the view desired. Parentheses are generally used in to show added information in written material that is not “original quoted” material.

The second punctuation to show emphasis is the bracket. Brackets “[ ]” are used to show that something has been added or changed to an original text. For example, let’s look at the following sentence:

“Jackie jumped [rather clumsily] when a spider landed beside her!”

In this sentence the writer is giving a quote (shown by the use of quotation marks) of an original text, i.e., “Jackie jumped when a spider landed beside her!” However, the writer has added a couple of additional words to that original text, i.e., [rather clumsily]. The words in the brackets show the reader that the writer has added to the original text.

The third punctuation to show emphasis is the use of ellipses. Ellipses “…” are dots that show the reader that a word or a group of words have been left out on purpose. This is done in order to shorten the writing or because the additional words are not relevant to what is being described or needed. Ellipses are also used to show a pause in a dialogue. The ellipsis always has three periods or dots (…) except when the ellipsis comes at the end of a sentence. Then it will contain either, four periods (….), three periods and a question mark (…?) or three periods and an exclamation point (…!). Let’s look at the following two sentences:

The audience stood up and began singing “We are the champions my friends…” in perfect unison!

She checked off her list of items that included a comb, toothbrush, deodorant, camera….

In the first sentence the audience begins to sing very familiar words to a song. Rather than to write out all of the words (which could violate copyright laws), the writer indicates that the song continued through the use of the ellipses.

In the second sentence we see that a list of items is being described but the remainder of those items is not important so they are left off using the ellipses. In addition, as the list ends the sentence, a fourth dot is added to show the sentence and list has ended.

For each sentence that follows, determine which marks should be used to convey a meaning or message to the reader or determine if any mark is needed at all.
1.
For her freshman year she was going to be taking English, Math, Science, History before taking any classes for her major.
No additional marks needed
Parentheses ( )
Brackets [ ]
Ellipses (...)
Looking at this sentence it is easy to see that it needs additional punctuation marks. Knowing this, Answer (a) is clearly not correct. The writer is also not providing the reader with any additional information nor is anything being added or is missing from a quote. Therefore, Answers (b) and (c) are not correct. There is a list of items being shown, i.e., English, Math, Science, History, but we do not see an end to that list. This would be a perfect place to include an ellipses. The sentence should be written as, “For her freshman year she was going to take English, Math, Science, History… before taking any classes for her major.” Answer (d) “ellipses” is the correct answer.
2.
Slowly making his way down the dark, winding stairway, holding his breath a gust of cold air rushed right through him.
No additional marks needed
Parentheses ( )
Brackets [ ]
Ellipses (...)
This sentence definitely needs additional punctuation marks so Answer (a) is not correct. It does not show any quoted text where something can be added so Answer (c) is also not correct as no brackets are needed. In addition, no unnecessary information in being given so there is no need for parentheses. However, the sentence seems a bit run on showing that a pause is needed. The sentence should read, “Slowly making his way down the dark, winding stairway, holding his breath… a gust of cold air rushed right through him.” The ellipses shows where a pause should take place to make the sentence read better. Answer (d) “ellipses” is the correct answer.
3.
She planned a vacation to go to London in September.
No additional marks needed
Parentheses ( )
Brackets [ ]
Ellipses (...)
This sentence is not providing the reader with any additional information so no parentheses are needed. There has also not been anything added or omitted so brackets are not needed. There are no words missing in a quoted text or song or title nor is there a pause needed so an ellipsis is also not needed. This sentence, therefore, requires no additional marks making Answer (a) the correct answer.
4.
He asked, “Can you drop off my cleaning at the Red-anger Cleaners?”
No additional marks needed
Parentheses ( )
Brackets [ ]
Ellipses (...)
This sentence does require the need for an additional punctuation mark/character so Answer (a) is not correct. There is no additional information being provided to the reader so Answer (b) “parentheses” is not correct either. There is nothing long being quoted that the writer has shortened so Answer (d) “ellipses” is also not correct. This sentence does show that original text is being quoted by the use of quotation marks. Knowing this, let’s look at the quoted text, i.e., “Can you drop off my cleaning at the Red-anger Cleaners?” At first glance it is easy to see that something is missing. It is unlikely that the cleaners is named “Red-anger” so that would mean a letter is missing. In this case, it is the letter “H.” The sentence should then be written as, “Can you drop off my cleaning at the Red-[H]anger Cleaners?” A set of brackets will show the reader that the writer has added in the missing “H”. Answer (c) is the correct answer for this sentence.
5.
Each student stood up when the pianist hit their starting note and they sang, “Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day.”
No additional marks needed
Parentheses ( )
Brackets [ ]
Ellipses (...)
In this sentence there is quoted original material being written but the writer is not adding anything to that original material so we know that Answers (a) and (c) are not correct. In addition, as there is quoted original material, Answer (b) would not be the choice of punctuation marks to use. However, the students are clearly singing a song and it is likely that they sang more words to the song than the writer has listed. Because of this, ellipses need to be used. The sentence should have been written as, “Each student stood up when the pianist hit their starting note and they sang, ‘Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day….’” Answer (d) is the correct answer. [NOTE: When something is being quoted within a quote, the inside quote has one quotation mark at the beginning and end of it rather than the double quotation marks.
6.
The Wilsons built a new house at the edge of town just after the high school’s football stadium.
No additional marks needed
Parentheses ( )
Brackets [ ]
Ellipses (...)
This sentence needs the use of additional characters or punctuation marks so Answer (a) is not correct. As there is nothing that has been quoted, nor is there any missing parts to a quote, neither Answer (c) “brackets” nor Answer (d) “ellipses” is the correct answer. On the other hand, it does appear that the writer is giving the reader additional information. Looking at the sentence we read, “The Wilsons built a new house at the edge of town.” This is a complete sentence. However, the writer is giving the reader some additional information, i.e., (just after the high school’s football stadium). This lets the reader know more specifically where the new house was built even though it is not necessary to the main sentence. Answer (b) is the correct answer as parentheses are needed to show the added information.
7.
“Yet again she stuck her foot into her mouth which was becoming a very common habit!”
No additional marks needed
Parentheses ( )
Brackets [ ]
Ellipses (...)
Reading this sentence it is easy to see that an additional punctuation mark can be used. As such, Answer (a) would not be correct here. There is no long text or title that is being shortened so Answer (d) would also not be correct. As the sentence is quoted material we know that the use of brackets would be used over the use of parentheses so Answer (b) is not the correct answer. The sentence should be written as, “Yet again she stuck her foot into her mouth [which was becoming a very common habit]!” Answer (c) is the correct answer for this sentence.
8.
While putting up the tent which wasn’t in the best spot Joshua had to dig out some large rocks to put the stakes in the ground.
No additional marks needed
Parentheses ( )
Brackets [ ]
Ellipses (...)
This sentence is definitely in need of additional marks so Answer (a) is not correct. There does not appear to be anything added to a quote or anything removed that would require brackets so Answer (c) is also not correct. In addition, there is no long title or quoted text that has been shortened nor is there a pause to be shown so Answer (d) is not correct either. There does appear to be added information given to the reader as “While putting up the tent Joshua had to dig out some large rocks to put the stakes in the ground,” is a complete sentence. The added information is (which wasn’t in the best spot). Answer (b), therefore, is the correct answer as parentheses are needed here.
9.
The constant noise at the playground which was new in the neighborhood gave her a headache.
No additional marks needed
Parentheses ( )
Brackets [ ]
Ellipses (...)
This sentence needs the use of additional characters or punctuation marks so Answer (a) is not correct. As there is nothing that has been quoted, nor is there any missing parts to a quote, neither Answer (c) “brackets” nor Answer (d) “ellipses” is the correct answer. On the other hand, it does appear that the writer is giving the reader additional information. Looking at the sentence we read, “The constant noise at the playground gave her a headache.” This is a complete sentence. However, the writer is giving the reader some additional information, i.e., (which was new in the neighborhood). This lets the reader know something about the playground even though it is not necessary to the main sentence. Answer (b) is the correct answer as parentheses are needed to show the added information.
10.
They all went to the hospital to see the new baby.
No additional marks needed
Parentheses ( )
Brackets [ ]
Ellipses (...)
This sentence is not providing the reader with any additional information so no parentheses are needed. There has also not been anything added or omitted so brackets are not needed. There are no words missing in a quoted text or song or title nor is there a pause needed so an ellipsis is also not needed. This sentence, therefore, requires no additional marks making Answer (a) the correct answer.
Author:  Christine G. Broome

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