Vocabulary - Parentheses, Brackets and Ellipses
I gave my cousin $50 to fix my car.

Vocabulary - Parentheses, Brackets and Ellipses

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When writing down stories, journals, reports, books and letters, certain characters (or punctuation marks) are used to make emphases or clarifications to the reader. Three such characters include the use of parentheses, the use of brackets and the use of ellipses.

Parentheses “( )” 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 additional knowledge to the reader. For example, let’s look at the following sentence:

Many families (with more than five children) were the first to receive the new flu shot.

In this sentence the writer wants the reader to know that families with more than five children were the first to receive the new flu shot. The words in between the parentheses are not needed to make this a complete sentence as “Many families were the first to receive the new flu shot,” is a complete sentence. However, with the words contained in the parentheses, the readers now have more information about the families.

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:

“He was [extremely] excited when he found the new bike!”

In this sentence the writer is giving a quote of an original text, i.e., “He was excited when he found the new bike!” However, the writer has added a word to that original text, i.e., [extremely]. The word in the brackets shows the reader that the writer has added to the original text.

Ellipses “…” are dots that show the reader that a word or a group of words have been left out on purpose to either shorten the writing or because those 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 (…) 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:

She was singing “Oh say can you see…” when they entered the stadium.

I want you to go to the store… on second thought, I’ll go.

In the first sentence we are using several punctuation marks. We are using quotation marks to show the words that were being sung. The second mark used is the ellipsis (…) and it shows that more words to the song followed but they are not needed to add any additional information. The last punctuation mark is, of course, the period at the end of the sentence.

In the second sentence we see that a command is being given but then the speaker pauses and changes their mind. The ellipsis in this sentence represents the pause the speaker took.

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.
Not liking apple pie is almost like being u-American!
No additional marks needed
Parentheses ( )
Brackets [ ]
Ellipses (...)
This sentence does require an additional punctuation mark so Answer (a) is not correct. There is no additional information being given to the reader outside of a complete sentence so Answer (b) “parentheses” is also not correct. There is nothing long being quoted that the writer has shortened as being not relevant so Answer (d) “ellipses” is also not correct. Now take another look at the sentence. What is “u-American”? It would appear that something is missing here. The writer would, therefore, need to add something. In this case, it is the letter “n” to make the word “un-American”. The sentence should be written as, “Not liking apple pie is almost like being u[n]-American.” This shows the reader that the letter “n” has been added in by the writer. Answer (c) is the correct answer for this sentence.
2.
“Four score and seven years ago” was part of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
No additional marks needed
Parentheses ( )
Brackets [ ]
Ellipses (...)
This sentence does require the use of additional characters or punctuations. Therefore, Answer (a) is not correct. The writer is not conveying any additional information to the reader so Answer (b) “parentheses” is also not correct. Although the sentence shows that something is being quoted, in this section of the quote there is nothing that is missing or being added so Answer (c) “brackets” is not the mark we are looking for. “Four score and seven years ago” is the beginning of a very long address that was given by President Lincoln and the writer needs to show the reader that there was more said. To do this, the writer would need to write this sentence as, “Four score and seven years ago…” was part of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Answer (d) “ellipses” is, therefore, the correct answer.
3.
“Melissa, do you know where my wait a minute, I remember where I put it now.”
No additional marks needed
Parentheses ( )
Brackets [ ]
Ellipses (...)
We do need to add additional marks to this sentence. As such, Answer (a) is 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. We can see, however, that someone is speaking and in the middle of speaking they have a change of thought. This change would reflect a pause. The sentence should read, “Melissa, do you know where my… wait a minute, I remember where I put it now.” The ellipses shows where a pause took place and Answer (d) “ellipses” is the correct answer.
4.
A child becomes emancipated when they turn 18 or when they graduate from high school whichever comes last.
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, “A child becomes emancipated when they turn 18 or when they graduate from high school.” This is a complete sentence. However, the writer is giving the reader some additional information, i.e., (whichever comes last). This lets the reader know that emancipation will take place when the last thing occurs, i.e., turning 18 or graduating. Answer (b) is the correct answer as parentheses are needed to show the added information.
5.
Queen Elizabeth lives in Buckingham Palace most of the year.
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.
6.
She began to count out loud, 1, 2, 3, 4 until she reached the number 20.
No additional marks needed
Parentheses ( )
Brackets [ ]
Ellipses (...)
We will need to add additional marks to this sentence; therefore, Answer (a) is not correct. The writer is not providing the reader with any additional information and nothing has been added or is missing from a quote so Answers (b) and (c) are not correct marks for this sentence. We can see, however, that the writer has shortened the listing of numbers, going from 4 to 20. To show this shortening, the writer should make this sentence read as, “She began to count out loud, 1, 2, 3, 4… until she reached the number 20.” Answer (d) “ellipses” is the correct answer here.
7.
I gave my cousin $50 to fix my car although later he told me he would have done it for $25.
No additional marks needed
Parentheses ( )
Brackets [ ]
Ellipses (...)
This sentence needs the use of additional characters or punctuation marks so Answer (a) is not correct. There is nothing quoted, nor is there any missing part to a quote so neither Answer (c) “brackets” nor Answer (d) “ellipses” is needed. It does appear, however, that the writer is giving the reader additional information. Looking at the sentence we read, “I gave my cousin $50 to fix my car.” This is a complete sentence. However, the writer is giving the added information of (although later he told me he would have done it for $25). Answer (b), therefore, is the correct answer as parentheses are needed here to show the added information.
8.
Mrs. Wilcox wanted to know but was a bit frightened to learn if it was her car that had been hit.
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. Now, there does appear to be added information given to the reader as “Mrs. Wilcox wanted to know if it was her car that had been hit,” is a complete sentence. The added information is (but was a bit frightened to learn). Answer (b), therefore, is the correct answer as parentheses are needed here.
9.
The bright sunshine coming through the window woke him up.
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.
10.
“Can you help me with this hing? I can’t get it loose.”
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 as being not relevant so Answer (d) “ellipses” is also not correct. Now look at the sentence again. It shows that someone is speaking. We know this because of the quotation marks at the beginning and ending of the sentence. Now let’s look at the first sentence, i.e., “Can you help me with this hing?” What is a “hing”? Clearly this word is missing a letter – the letter “t” to be exact. As it is missing from the original quote, the writer would rewrite the quote as “Can you help me with this [t]hing? I can’t get it loose.” A set of brackets will show the reader that the writer has added in the missing “t”. Answer (c) is the correct answer for this sentence.
Author:  Christine G. Broome

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