Square Brackets Punctuation Rules and Examples

Let’s explore the use of square brackets, which have specific applications in English writing.

Square Brackets: []

Clarification within a Quote:

Square brackets are used to clarify or modify a quote for readability, often by providing additional context or information.

Example: “He [John] is coming to the party tonight.”

Translation or Explanation:

They can enclose a translation or explanation of a non-English term or phrase.

Example: “She said, ‘Te amo [I love you].'”

Editorial Comments or Corrections:

In editing, square brackets are used to include comments, corrections, or the Latin term “sic” to indicate an error in the original text.

Example: “She wrote a [sic] incorrect sentence.”

Nested Information:

If parentheses are used within another set of parentheses, square brackets can be used for the inner set to avoid confusion.

Example: “He enjoys fruits (especially apples [Granny Smith], oranges, and bananas).”

Citations in Academic Writing:

Some academic citation styles use square brackets to enclose citations or references.

Example: “The study found significant results [Johnson, 2005].”


Square brackets provide a clear and specific way to include extra information within a text, especially within quotations or other parentheses. They allow writers to add clarification, translation, or editorial comments without confusing the reader or disrupting the original content.


Square brackets are used in English writing to enclose additional information, especially within quotes, parentheses, or academic citations. Their specialized applications make them an important tool for clarity and precision in writing. Understanding how to use square brackets correctly can enhance your writing, ensuring that additional details are presented clearly and without confusion. Whether you’re clarifying a quote, translating a foreign term, or providing editorial insight, square brackets help you communicate more effectively with your reader.

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