The Remedy of the Week: Brackets (and how to use them)

Each week proofreader Hannah Jones discusses and offers a remedy to common problems we encounter when writing. Today she discusses brackets and whether punctuation should appear inside or outside them.

Uses of brackets

Round brackets (or parentheses) are typically used to set apart information that is supplemental or incidental to the main thought. This information may be in the form of a word, a phrase or even a full sentence.

No matter what is inside the brackets, a sentence must still make sense if the brackets and their contents are deleted.

Brackets are commonly used to:

  • introduce abbreviations
    I am a member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP).
  • explain abbreviations
    I trained as a proofreader with the PTC (Publishing Training Centre).
  • provide translations
    Schadenfreude (a pleasure derived from other people's misfortune)
  • add definitions
    triskaidekaphobia (a fear of the number 13)


Punctuation inside or outside?

If the parenthetical information appears as part of a larger sentence, the full stop should be on the outside (as in this example).

Sometimes the parenthetical material itself requires an exclamation mark or a question mark, but you'll still need a full stop outside the brackets to end the sentence (like this!).

(However, if the parenthetical information is a complete sentence that stands on its own, as here, a full stop should be placed inside the brackets.)

Hannah Jones is a professional freelance proofreader and owner of The Remedy of Errors.

Visit her website at The Remedy of Errors. She can also be found on Twitter @remedyoferrorsFacebook and LinkedIn.