The writer who neglects punctuation, or mispunctuates,
is liable to be misunderstood.... For the want of merely a comma,
it often occurs that an axiom appears a paradox, or that a sarcasm
is converted into a sermonoid.
Edgar Allan Poe, Marginalia, Grahams Magazine, Feb. 1848
You can use brackets to include explanatory words or phrases within quoted
Lew Perkins, the Director of Athletic Programs, said, Pumita Espinoza,
the new soccer coach [at Notre Dame Academy] is going to be a real winner.
If you are quoting material and youve had to change the capitalization of a
word or change a pronoun to make the material fit into your sentence, enclose
that changed letter or word(s) within brackets:
Espinoza charged her former employer with falsification of [her]
Also within quotations, you could enclose [sic] within brackets to show that
misspelled words or inappropriately used words are not your own typos or
blunders but are part of an accurately rendered quotation:
Reporters found three mispelings [sic] in the report.
You can use brackets to include parenthetical material inside parenthetical
Chernwell was poet laureate of Bermuda, (a largely honorary position
[unpaid]), for 10 years.
Capital Community College Foundation
Guide to Grammar and Writing
Provide an explanation if the author uses something your audience isnt likely
to understand The first words of Joyces Stately, plump Buck Mulligan
are Introibo ad altare dei [I will go to the altar of God]. You might need to
supply a detail not in the original quotation, especially if your reader is likely
to be confused: As Fairbanks notes, The death of three civil rights workers in
Philadelphia [Mississippi] marked a turning point. You might also provide a
first name: It was [George] Eliots most successful work. Always the question
is whether the clarification will help your audience.
If youre changing a single word or a short phrase, especially a pronoun, and
the word isnt especially interesting in its own right, its okay to omit the original
and replace it with the bracketed interpolation: you can change In that
year, after much deliberation, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation to In
, after much deliberation, [Lincoln] issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
Lynch, Guide to Grammar and Style
For information about usage of brackets, click here
to consult one of the many style books listed on the Resources page