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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.