Square Bracket: A Guide on its Definition and Use

In writing, there are many punctuation rules that you need to follow. One of the punctuation marks in English that most people get confused about is the square bracket.

These marks help us indicate a signal of stopping, continuing or pausing in a sentence. English has a lot of these which you can use in your writing. The most common ones are commas and quotation symbols.

However, you might not be familiar with using brackets at all. Some people mainly utilize the parenthesis because it’s much easier to identify when to use it. Brackets do somehow serve a purpose in any writing.

Whether you’re writing an essay or marketing content, you’ll find brackets handy. They serve a purpose that will help you save time explaining things through your work. You can convey the meaning of a word or thought you’re sharing easily through it.

By reading this brief article, you will discover the purpose of a square bracket.

What is a Square Bracket?

This punctuation is usually used in a sentence or paragraph with a quote written within. Usually, it’s utilized as an attempt to modify or further explain the statement. It’s done to cater to common readers who might not understand a high language level in writing.

Punctuation is also used to reword a term mentioned in the statement, so that most readers can comprehend its meaning. Authors can also use a square bracket in any form of writing.


“Then Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon [a Northern Italian river].”

3 Common Mistakes when Using a Square Bracket

Confused as Another Mark

Sometimes, authors mistakenly use this as a parenthesis. Note that both punctuations have different uses and may affect your message conveyance through a word. So, here’s the distinction between them:

“I fell from the podium (while I was performing) and went straight to the ground.”

“I fell from the podium [a small stage] and went straight to the ground.”

Notice that the first passage tries to insert a short description of what was happening using the parenthesis. The parenthetical phrase tries to complement why the writer was on the podium. It’s usually used to clarify relevant things that aren’t mentioned in the sentence.

Meanwhile, the second sentence used the enclosure to explain a podium. It’s different from the previous sentence since it doesn’t emphasize the event. However, it purports to let the reader know what the preceding word means.

Prejudiced as a Mathematical Icon

Another reason writers don’t use this enclosure as often is that they think it portrays a mathematical expression. This is called by the same name but with different purposes. Some authors disregard this due to the reason of instead getting too algebraic.

Thought as Too Formal

Other commentaries would surmise that using this enclosure would cause the sophistication of a simple text. Also, when common readers see it within a text, they’ll get overwhelmed by the article’s structure. Unknowingly, it’s essential to write effectively.

Instead, some authors don’t clarify things anymore, even if it’s necessary. Ignoring such purpose of this enclosure would affect your readers’ comprehension of your text. Suppose these two sentences below:

The Ambassador Extraordinary-Plenipotentiary arrived yesterday.

Common readers wouldn’t understand what an ambassador extraordinary-plenipotentiary is. Also, what distinction does it have from a regular ambassador? Hence, the need to use a square bracket.

The Ambassador Extraordinary-Plenipotentiary [an ambassador with full representation of a head of state] arrived yesterday.

To Wrap Up

Now you know what a square bracket means and the different mistakes you should avoid when using it. Make sure to take note of everything you learned from this article so that you can add more tips to your writing expertise. English Grammar [a set of structure and vocabulary rules in English] is indeed fun to study!

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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