why do journalists and authors often put brackets around words in seemingly strange parts of sentences?

4.01K views

For example, a sentence I just read went as follows:

> “‘I don’t think [the book] had anything to do with his arrest and neither does Anne Marie Schubert,’ he says.”—(Excerpt from the appendix of ‘I’ll Be Gone in the Dark’ by Michelle McNamara)


Found in Other.

Those brackets indicate an inserted section, usually where when a word like “it” is used to, to explain what”it” was referring to. This is done for clarification purposes.

the words in the brackets have been added or altered by the author not the person/ have not been said by the person quoted

They’re changing part of a quote from something understood in context of the quote to something explicit. In your quote [the book] was probably “it” or similar.

It’s usually done to show words that have been inserted, usually for clarification. These can be places where a word was accidentally omitted, or a word like “it” was used and they’re replacing “it” with what the author was referring to, while still showing it wasn’t what was originally written. It’s done just to help things make more sense.

Brackets are used around words when the author is directly quoting but those words inside the brackets don’t appear in the quote. In the example you cite, instead of The words “the book” the direct quote may have contained something like the actual book title or some other way the person being quoted was referring to the book. In this context, brackets are a standard literary device used to indicate that the author is inserting words in a direct quote, but that insertion is not supposed to change the meaning in any way.

If the sentence would be hard to understand exactly as written or said, the brackets indicate that a substitution has been made.

“He said that it was a crime against humanity” would be obscure if you didn’t know that the antecedent of ‘it’ was putting ketchup on hot dogs.

“He said that [putting ketchup on hot dogs] was a crime against humanity.”

It’s for clarification within the quote, to spell out what person was talking about… person actually probably said “it” but “the book” was swapped for clarity.

Those are to fill in words the person didn’t say.

>I don’t think [the book] had anything to do with his arrest and neither does Anne Marie Schubert

Probably was

>I don’t think *it* had anything to do with his arrest and neither does Anne Marie Schubert

So they made sure it was clear what subject they were discussing so the reader would understand.

The brackets indicate a redaction by the journalist or editor.

You will also see ‘[sic]’ added to quotations similar to, “[I am honered [sic] to serve you, the great American People, as your 45th President of the United States!](https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-fallow-misspellings-trump-20170220-story.html)”

‘Sic’ is Latin for ‘thus’ or ‘so’ and indicates that the error or grammatical oddity in the source material was included verbatim with the full knowledge of the author or editor, rather than having been accidentally introduced in the process of writing the article.