Business & Technical Writing/Square Brackets


Hello Dan

I occasionally see (but not much any more) square brackets that stand alone in text, such as [ ] this.  I know that square brackets with text can be a "filler" for more clarity, but what do the stand-alone brackets mean?

Also, I have seen empty square brackets at the beginning of a sentence; and I have seen brackets enclosed the first letter of a sentence.  [H]ere is an example.

What does it all mean?  (I can't find any info from internet searches).



Hi Peter,

I don't know what the standalone brackets [] might mean in a sentence, but when they have content such brackets function more or less the same as parentheses. In the example you give, I suspect that "here" was all lower case and in the middle of a sentence originally. I suspect the content-free brackets are simply mistakes. Certainly if they're content free they don't have meaning at all.

Hope this helps.

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Dan Smith


I have been a professional writer and editor for more than 30 years, taught speech and English composition at the university level, and have developed speech and English composition courses and seminars for businesses. I am experienced in editing a wide variety of materials, especially business, scientific, and other academic papers. I am familiar with all the major style guides.


I have edited any number of graduate papers and other technical materials in such advanced fields as clinical psychology, civil and electrical engineering, and semiconductor fabrication. I have extensive experience in working with non-native English speakers.

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