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  1. Adverbial
  2. Agentive ending
  3. Ain't
  4. American and British English differences
  5. American and British English pronunciation differences
  6. American and British English spelling differences
  7. American English
  8. Amn't
  9. Anglophone
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  11. Apostrophe
  12. Australian English
  13. Benjamin Franklin's phonetic alphabet
  14. Bracket
  15. British and American keyboards
  16. British English
  17. Canadian English
  18. Certificate of Proficiency in English
  19. Classical compound
  20. Cockney
  21. Colon
  22. Comma
  23. Comma splice
  24. Cut Spelling
  25. Dangling modifier
  26. Dash
  27. Definite article reduction
  28. Disputed English grammar
  29. Don't-leveling
  30. Double copula
  31. Double negative
  32. Ellipsis
  33. English alphabet
  34. English compound
  35. English declension
  36. English English
  37. English grammar
  38. English honorifics
  39. English irregular verbs
  40. English language learning and teaching
  41. English modal auxiliary verb
  42. English orthography
  43. English passive voice
  44. English personal pronouns
  45. English phonology
  46. English plural
  47. English relative clauses
  48. English spelling reform
  49. English verbs
  50. English words with uncommon properties
  51. Estuary English
  52. Exclamation mark
  53. Foreign language influences in English
  54. Full stop
  55. Generic you
  56. Germanic strong verb
  57. Gerund
  58. Going-to future
  59. Grammatical tense
  60. Great Vowel Shift
  61. Guillemets
  62. Habitual be
  63. History of linguistic prescription in English
  64. History of the English language
  65. Hyphen
  66. I before e except after c
  67. IELTS
  68. Initial-stress-derived noun
  69. International Phonetic Alphabet for English
  70. Interpunct
  71. IPA chart for English
  72. It's me
  73. Languages of the United Kingdom
  74. Like
  75. List of animal adjectives
  76. List of British idioms
  77. List of British words not widely used in the United States
  78. List of case-sensitive English words
  79. List of commonly confused homonyms
  80. List of common misspellings in English
  81. List of common words that have two opposite senses
  82. List of dialects of the English language
  83. List of English apocopations
  84. List of English auxiliary verbs
  85. List of English homographs
  86. List of English irregular verbs
  87. List of English prepositions
  88. List of English suffixes
  89. List of English words invented by Shakespeare
  90. List of English words of Celtic origin
  91. List of English words of Italian origin
  92. List of English words with disputed usage
  93. List of frequently misused English words
  94. List of Fumblerules
  95. List of homophones
  96. List of -meters
  97. List of names in English with non-intuitive pronunciations
  98. List of words having different meanings in British and American English
  99. List of words of disputed pronunciation
  100. London slang
  101. Longest word in English
  102. Middle English
  103. Modern English
  104. Names of numbers in English
  105. New Zealand English
  106. Northern subject rule
  107. Not!
  108. NuEnglish
  109. Oxford spelling
  110. Personal pronoun
  111. Phonological history of the English language
  112. Phrasal verb
  113. Plural of virus
  114. Possessive adjective
  115. Possessive antecedent
  116. Possessive me
  117. Possessive of Jesus
  118. Possessive pronoun
  119. Preposition stranding
  120. Pronunciation of English th
  121. Proper adjective
  122. Question mark
  123. Quotation mark
  124. Received Pronunciation
  125. Regional accents of English speakers
  126. Rhyming slang
  127. Run-on sentence
  128. Scouse
  129. Semicolon
  130. Semordnilap
  131. Serial comma
  132. Shall and will
  133. Silent E
  134. Singular they
  135. Slash
  136. SoundSpel
  137. Space
  138. Spelling reform
  139. Split infinitive
  140. Subjective me
  141. Suffix morpheme
  142. Tag question
  143. Than
  144. The Reverend
  145. Third person agreement leveling
  146. Thou
  147. TOEFL
  148. TOEIC
  149. Truespel
  150. University of Cambridge ESOL examination
  151. Weak form and strong form
  152. Welsh English
  153. Who
  154. You

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For technical reasons, :) and some similar combinations redirect here. See emoticon.
Various brackets in Arial
Various brackets in Arial

Brackets are punctuation marks used in pairs to set apart or interject text within other text. With respect to computer science, the term is sometimes said to only strictly apply to the square or box type. [1]

Types of brackets include parentheses or round brackets ( ), box brackets or square brackets [ ], curly brackets or braces { }, and angle brackets . All these forms may be used according to typographical conventions that may vary from publication to publication and may vary even more from language to language. Some typical uses in English texts follow.


In addition to referring to the class of all types of brackets, the unqualified word bracket is most commonly used to refer to a specific type of bracket. In modern American usage this is usually the square bracket, whereas in modern British usage it is usually the parenthesis (round bracket).

In fact, in American usage, parentheses are usually considered separately from other brackets, and calling them brackets at all is unusual, even though they serve a similar function. In more formal usage, parenthesis or parenthesised may refer to the whole bracketed text, not just to the particular punctuation marks used {so all the text in this curly bracket may be said to be parenthesised}.

Types of brackets

Parentheses ( )

Parentheses (the singular is parenthesis, with an i) – sometimes called round brackets, curved brackets, oval brackets, or just brackets; or, colloquially, parens, or fingernails – are used to contain parenthetical (or optional, additional) material in a sentence that could be removed without destroying the meaning of the main text.

John Lennard, in "The exploitation of parentheses in English printed verse," usefully coined the term lunula to refer specifically to the opening curved bracket, the closing curved bracket and the textual contents between.

In formal writing, parentheses may be used to add supplementary information, such as "Sen.Jon Kennedy (D., Massachusetts) spoke at length."

In literature and informal writing, parenthetical phrases have been used extensively in stream of consciousness literature. Of particular note is the great southern American author William Faulkner, whose use of parenthetical constructions was legendary, effective, and (at times) frustrating. See Absalom, Absalom! and the Quentin section of The Sound and the Fury for the best known examples. In most writing, overuse of parentheses is usually a sign of a badly structured text. A milder effect may be obtained by using a pair of commas, rather than parentheses, as the delimiter (but if the sentence contains commas for other purposes, visual confusion may result).

Historically, parentheses have been used where the solidus is modernly used—that is, in order to depict alternatives, such as "parenthesis)(parentheses". Examples of this usage can be seen in editions of Fowler’s.

Parentheses may also be nested (with one set (such as this) inside another set). This is not commonly used in formal writing (though sometimes other brackets [especially square brackets] will be used for one or more inner set of parentheses [in other words, secondary {or even tertiary} phrases can be found within the main sentence]).

Any punctuation inside parentheses or other brackets is independent from the rest of the text: "Mrs. Pennyfarthing (What? Yes, that was her name!) was my landlady". In this usage, the explanatory text in the parentheses is a parenthesis. (It is most common for the parenthesised text to be within a single sentence, but not uncommon for an entire senence, or even several sentences, of supplemental material to be in parenthesis. In this case, even the final full-stop - period - would be within the parentheses. Again, the parenthesis implies that the meaning and flow of the text as a whole would be unchanged were the parenthesised sentences removed.)

In mathematics, parentheses are used to signify a different precedence of operators. For example, 2 + 3 × 4 would be 14, since the multiplication is done before the addition. On the other hand, (2 + 3) × 4 is 20, because the parentheses override normal precedence, causing the addition to be done first. They are also used to set apart the arguments to mathematical functions. For example, f(x) is the function f applied to the variable x. In the coordinate system, parentheses are used to denote a set of coordinates. For example, (4,7) may represent the point located at 4 on the x-axis and 7 on the y-axis. Parentheses can also represent multiplication, as in the instance of 2 (3) = 6. Please note that in mathematic equations, if parentheses are used twice around each other, the inner pair are parentheses and the outer pair are square brackets. Ex: [5-(7+3)]+4=x

Box brackets or square brackets [ ]

Square brackets are used to enclose explanatory or missing […] material, especially in quoted text. For example, "I appreciate it [the honor], but I must refuse". Or, "the future of psionics [See definition] is in doubt".

The bracketed expression sic (Latin for "thus") is used to indicate errors that are "thus in the original"; a bracketed ellipsis […] is often used to indicate deleted material; bracketed comments are used to indicate when original text has been modified for clarity: "I'd like to thank [several unimportant people] and my parentals [sic] for their love, tolerance […] and assistance [italics added]".

In mathematics, square brackets are used in a variety of notations, including standard notations for intervals, commutators, the Lie bracket, and the Iverson bracket.

Square brackets are also sometimes used as parentheses within parentheses (secondary parentheses [as mentioned earlier]).

With the International Phonetic Alphabet, square brackets are used to indicate a phonetic transcription (as opposed to a phonemic one).

In chemistry, square brackets can also be used to represent the concentration of a chemical substance, or to denote a complex ion.

In architecture, square brackets can be used to emphasize cool words, such as [metaliving] or [cityscape]. It can also be used to make the layout generally look more cool and modern.

In proofreading, square brackets (called move-left symbols or move right symbols) are added to the sides of text to indicate changes in indentation:


Curly brackets or braces { }

Curly brackets (so-called in British English; North American English prefers braces) are sometimes used in prose to indicate a series of equal choices: "Select your animal {goat, sheep, cow, horse} and follow me". They are used in specialized ways in poetry and music (to mark repeats or joined lines). In mathematics they are used to delimit sets.

Presumably due to the similarity of the words brace and bracket (although they do not share an etymology), many people casually treat brace as a synonym for bracket. Therefore, when it is necessary to avoid any possibility of confusion, such as in computer programming, it may be best to use the term curly bracket rather than brace. However, general usage in North American English favours the latter form. The term curly braces is redundant since no other type of brace exists. Indian programmers often use the name "flower bracket".

Curly brackets are often used in internet communities and through instant messaging to indicate hugging. {{{{{{{username}}}}}}}

Angle brackets or chevrons

Angle brackets ( ) are often used to enclose highlighted material. Some dictionaries use angle brackets to enclose short excerpts illustrating the usage of words. True angle brackets are not available on a typical computer keyboard, so the "less than" and "greater than" symbols are used instead (<, >). These are often loosely referred to as angle brackets when used in this way. For example, the symbols < and > are often used to set apart URLs in text, such as "I found it on <>". It may also often be found to indicate an e-mail address, such as "This photo is copyrighted by John Smith <>", and is the computer-readable form for such in message headers as specified by RFC 2822.

Angle brackets are used in physical sciences to denote an average over time or another continuous parameter. For example,

\left\langle V(t)^2 \right\rangle = \lim_{T\to\infty} \frac{1}{T}\int_{-T/2}^{T/2} V(t)^2{\rm{d}}t

In linguistics, angle brackets are used to indicate orthography, as in "The English word /kæt/ is spelled cat."

In textual criticism, and hence in many editions of poorly transmitted works, angle brackets denote sections of the text which are illegible or otherwise lost; the editor will often insert his own reconstruction where possible within them.

Single and double angle brackets (⟪, ⟫) or pairs of the appropriate comparison operators (<<, >>) are sometimes used instead of guillemets («, ») when the proper glyphs are not available.

The mathematical or logical symbols for greater-than (>) and less-than (<), when used as such, are not punctuation marks.

Chevrons are part of standard Chinese, Japanese, and Korean punctuation, where they generally enclose the titles of books: ︿ and or and for traditional vertical printing, and and or and for horizontal printing.

In comic books, angle brackets are often used to mark dialogue that has notionally been translated from another language.

Angle brackets can also be used to indicate an action or status (eg. <Waves> or <Offline>), particularly in online, real-time text-based discussions (instant messaging, bulletin boards, etc). (Here, asterisks can also be used to signify an action.)

In computing

  • Opening and closing parentheses correspond to ASCII and Unicode characters 40 and 41, or 0x0028 and 0x0029, respectively.
  • For square brackets corresponding values are 91 and 93, or 0x005B and 0x005D.
  • For braces, 123 and 125, or 0x007B and 0x007D.
  • True angle brackets are available in Unicode at code points 0x27e8 and 0x27e9 (for mathematical use), or 0x9001 and 0x9002 (for East Asian languages), or 0x2329 and 0x232A (for "technical" use, canonically equivalent to the CJL code points 0x900x). The less than and greater than symbols can be found in both Unicode and ASCII at code points 60 and 62, or 0x003C and 0x003E.

Also, in many computer languages:

  • "(" and ")"
    • are often used to define the syntactic structure of expressions, overriding operator precedence: a*(b+c) has subexpressions a and b+c, whereas a*b+c has subexpressions a*b and c.
    • are used to contain the arguments to functions: substring($val,10,1). On the other hand, in Lisp they open and close s-expressions and therefore function applications: (cons a b). In Fortran-family languages, they are also used for array references.
  • "[" and "]"
    • are used to refer to array or associative array elements, and sometimes to define the number of elements in an array: queue[3].
    • in most regular expression syntaxes square brackets are used to denote a character class: a series of possible characters to choose from.
  • "{" and "}" are used in some languages to define the beginning and ending of blocks of code. Languages which use this convention are said to belong to the curly brace family of programming languages. In some of these languages, they also denote array constants. On the other hand, in the Pascal programming language, "{" and "}" define the beginning and ending of comments.
  • "<" and ">" are used in SGML (and its applications and variants such as HTML and XML), to enclose code tags: <div>, and in the languages Java, C++ and C# to delimit generic arguments and preprocessor directives. They are also used as operators for redirection in Unix. In this context, they are often referred to as hoinkies (singular hoinky) in order to "avoid confusion with other bracket-type operators" (Bryant and O'Hallaron 2003).

Layout rules

In normal text an opening bracket is not put at the end of a line, and a closing bracket not at the beginning. However, in computer code this is often done to aid readability. For example, a bracketed list of items separated by semi-colons may be written with the brackets on separate lines, and the items, followed by the semicolon, each on one line.

For example, the CSS code

H1 { font-weight: bold; font-size: 12pt; line-height: 14pt }

may also be written

H1 {  font-weight: bold;  font-size: 12pt;  line-height: 14pt}

A superfluous semicolon may be added after the last item for uniformity of the item lines.

See Indent style.

In mathematics

In addition to the use of parentheses to specify the order of operations, both parentheses and square brackets can also be used to denote an interval. The notation [a, c) is used to indicate an interval from a to c that is inclusive of a but exclusive of c. That is, [5, 12) would be the set of all real numbers between 5 and 12, including 5 but not 12. The numbers may come as close as they like to 12, including 11.999 and so forth (with any finite number of 9s), but 12.0 is not included. In Europe, the notation [5,12[ is also used for this.

The endpoint adjoining the square bracket is known as closed, while the endpoint adjoining the parenthesis is known as open. If both types of brackets are the same, the entire interval may be referred to as closed or open as appropriate. Whenever infinity or negative infinity is used as an endpoint, it is always considered open and adjoined to a parenthesis.

This is used in mathematical notation, and appears in some computer programming languages. See the article Interval (mathematics) for a more complete treatment of the subject.

In quantum mechanics, angle brackets are also used as part of Dirac's formalism, bra-ket notation, to note vectors from the dual spaces of the Bra <A| and the Ket |B>. Mathematicians will also commonly write <a,b> for the inner product of two vectors. In statistical mechanics, angle brackets denote ensemble or time average. Angle brackets are used in group theory to write group presentations, and to denote the subgroup generated by a collection of elements.

In group theory and ring theory, square brackets are used to denote the commutator. In group theory, the commutator [g,h] is commonly defined as g−1h−1gh. In ring theory, the commutator [a,b] is defined as abba. Furthermore, in ring theory, braces are used to denote the anticommutator where {a,b} is defined as ab + ba. The square bracket is also used to denote the Lie derivative, or more generally the Lie bracket in any Lie algebra.

Various notations, like the vinculum have a similar effect to brackets in specifying order of operations, or otherwise grouping several characters together for a common purpose.

In the Z formal specification language, curly braces define a set and angle brackets define a sequence.

In accounting

Traditionally in accounting, negative currency amounts are placed in parentheses. [2]

In law

Brackets are used in the citation of law reports to identify whether the report series is sorted by volume number - in which case round brackets are used - or by year - in which case square brackets are used. For example: (1983) 158 CLR 1 or [1998] 2 All ER 153.

In sports

Tournament brackets, the diagrammatic representation of the series of games played during a tournament usually leading to a single winner, are so named for their resemblance to square brackets.


  • Bryant, Randal E.; David O'Hallaron (2003). Computer Systems: A Programmer's Perspective. Pearson Education, Inc., 794. ISBN 0-13-034074-X.
  • Lennard, John, But I Digress: The Exploitation of Parentheses in English Printed Verse (1991) ISBN 0-19-811247-5
  • Turnbull et al., The Graphics of Communication, Holt, New York: 1964 states that what are depicted as square brackets above are called braces and curly brackets are called brackets. This was the terminology in US printing prior to computers.

See also

  • Bracket notation, a text-based method of tracking changes to a document
  • Emoticon
  • Japanese typographic symbols
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