Brackets [ ]

Brackets are mainly used to enclose editorial comments within a quotation. This could be to clarify, to emphasize, to censor, or to point out a mistake in a part of the original quote.

Make sure that words in brackets provide context or clarity for the original quotation. Do not use bracketed comments to change the meaning of the original quotation.

Clarify

Use brackets to enclose text that clarifies part of a direct quote.

Examples
  • The nurse asked, "Is he [elderly man] okay?"
  • I heard the cop shout, "Put it [gun] down!"

Emphasize

To emphasize part of a quote, enclose the words emphasis added or italics added in brackets to indicate that it was not part of the original quotation.

Examples
  • "The time is always right [emphasis added] to do what is right" (Martin Luther King Jr., 1965).

Mistake

Use brackets to enclose the word sic (Latin for thus or so) to indicate a mistake (such as a misspelled word) in the original quotation.

Examples
  • The protester held up a sign reading, “Black Live [sic] Matters!”

Censor

Use brackets to enclose the word expletive or expletive deleted to indicate where vulgar, offensive, or objectionable text in the original quote has been censored.

Examples
  • "My football coach was a real [expletive]," Brown told reporters, "but he taught me the value of hard work."