Remember, parentheses look like this: ( ); brackets look like this: [ ].
Parentheses (which is plural for parenthesis, by the way) are used to enclose information that is not essential to the overall meaning of the sentence. If you were to take out the information within the parentheses, the sentence would still make sense without it.
- Adjectives and adverbs are both modifiers; however, we will discuss adverbs in a later chapter (see Chapter 13).
- The Eiffel Tower (in Paris) is 1,063 feet tall.
- My son climbed to the top of a tree (I can't understand why!) to collect leaves for his school project.
- Emily moved to the United States when she was 19 years old (in 2006).
Brackets are used almost exactly the same way as parentheses—to enclose nonessential information. However, brackets are used specifically within a set of parentheses. A set of parentheses within another set of parentheses would be extremely confusing, so we use brackets to clarify what information belongs together.
- He always drinks water (though sometimes he prefers juice [especially orange] for lunch).
- "He [George Washington] was born on February 22, 1732."
- "That moment was the last time Janet saw it [her money]."