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Parentheses, Brackets, and Braces

What’s the difference?

By
Bonnie Trenga Mills, read by Mignon Fogarty,
July 29, 2010
Episode #233

Page 3 of 3

Braces

Our last foray into punctuation marks leads us to what are known as curly braces. To type one, press the shift key as you punch the bracket key, to the right of the letter “p.” I must say I have never used curly braces. In fact, although they look like punctuation marks, they really aren’t (6), at least not in the way you can type them yourself.

They’re on your keyboard because they have specialized uses in mathematics and science. For example, they are used to enclose the third level of nested equations when parentheses and brackets have already been used for the first two levels (7).

Big curly braces that span multiple lines are sometimes used to enclose groups of words that belong together (8) or triplet lines in poetry, but your keyboard doesn’t have those big curly braces that span multiple lines.

Summary

Today you’ve learned how to use various curved, square, and curly squiggles within your sentences. Be sure to keep them straight!

The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier & The Grammar Devotional

This podcast was written by Bonnie Trenga, author of The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier, who blogs at sentencesleuth.blogspot.com, and I'm Mignon Fogarty, author of the New York Times bestseller, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

References

  1. Garner, B. 2009. Garner's Modern American Usage, 3rd Edition, pp. 679-80. New York: Oxford University Press.

  2. Garner, B. 2009. Garner's Modern American Usage, 3rd Edition, p. 682. New York: Oxford University Press.

  3. Walsh, B. 2000. Lapsing into a Comma, pp. 57-8. Lincolnwood (Chicago): Contemporary Books.

  4. Garner, B. 2009. Garner's Modern American Usage, 3rd Edition, p. 682. New York: Oxford University Press.

  5. Garner, B. 2009. Garner's Modern American Usage, 3rd Edition, p. 746. New York: Oxford University Press.

  6. De Vinne, T. L. 1904. The Practice of Typography, 2nd Edition, New York: The Century Co.

  7. Villamayor, et al. 2003. Using Math in This Millennium 6, Manila: Rex Bookstore.

  8. Shaw. H. 1993. Punctuate It Right, 2nd Edition. HarperPaperbacks.

*This line was originally incorrect and has been fixed. Podcast listeners, please note that this line is still incorrect in the audio version. We apologize.

Bracket image courtesy of Shutterstock

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