Brackets, Ellipses, Hyphens, Capitalization


Br: brackets. Hy X: misuse of hyphens.
Br X: use brackets sparingly. Cap: capitalization.

Ell: ellipses.

1. proper nouns and lcommon nouns.

1. omissions.

2. first word of a sentence.

2. Ell T: typography.

3. honorary titles.

Ell X: avoid ellipses.

4. directions.

Hy: hyphens.

5. titles of literary and other works.

1. compounds and prefixes.

Cap X: misuse.

2. words at the end of lines

3. Hy T: typography.



Br: use brackets for parentheses within parentheses or to indicate an addition to a quotation.

PARENTHESIS WITHIN PARENTHESIS: The Lord Byron who visited Hawaii in 1825 was a cousin (George Anson [1789-1868]) of the famous poet.

ADDITION TO A QUOTATION: Samuel Johnson observed, "he that tries to recommend him [Shakespeare] by select quotations will succeed like the pedant [. . .] who, when he offered his house to sale, carried a brick in his pocket as a specimen" (264).

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Br X: use brackets sparingly. They make a page ugly. With a little imagination, you can find a better alternative:

UGLY: Emily Dickinson paradoxically claims, "I [she] taste[s] a liquor never brewed."

BETTER: Emily Dickinson paradoxically claims to "taste a liquor never brewed."

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Ell: use an ellipsis to mark an omission. A series of spaced periods is called an ellipsis (the plural, ellipses, rhymes with Gypsies).

1. Use an ellipsis to mark an omission. In formal writing, an ellipsis marks an omission from a quotation. College style manuals now recommend placing brackets around an ellipsis in a quotation, to indicate that the ellipsis is not part of the original text. (For more information on ellipses in quotations, see QL: Quoting Literature in Part Five.)

Like the shipwrecked Lycidas, his hopes lie "Sunk [. . .] beneath the watery floor" (167).

Writers of narrative use the ellipsis to mark an unfinished statement:

The last sound on the flight recorder box was the voice of a flight attendant saying, "I wonder if the strange ticking sound could be. . . ."

2. Ell T: typography. One blank space should precede and follow each period:

WRONG: "I … I guess so," he stammered. "I. . .I guess so," he stammered.

RIGHT: "I . . . I guess so," he stammered.

When an ellipsis comes at the end of a sentence, use four periods, with no space before the first one (or three periods followed by a question mark or exclamation point).

The last words were "I wonder if the ticking sound could be. . . ." An explosion followed.

Do not divide an ellipsis between lines; all the periods should end one line or begin the next line.

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Ell X: avoid ellipses. Like dashes, parentheses and slashes, they make a page ugly. It is best not to hack up sentences you are quoting. Try rephrasing or dividing one quotation into two:

UGLY: Jane compares the night sky to "a blue sea [. . .] and [. . .] fathomless depth" (108).

BETTER: Jane compares the night sky to a "blue sea" and a "fathomless depth" (108).

Avoid the ellipsis in narrative writing too; it easily sounds like a cliché:

TRITE: She gasped, "Can it really be . . . ? I never dreamed. . . ."

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Hy: hyphens. If your teacher marks "Hy," identify the rule you violated.

1. Some compounds and prefixes require hyphens. If in doubt, consult a dictionary.

PREFIXES: anti-intellectual, self-employed

COMPOUND NOUNS: blow-by-blow, love-in

COMPOUND ADJECTIVES: hands-down, red-blooded, a ninth-grade student

Placement of hyphens requires care. Note the subtle but important differences below:

two million-dollar deals two-million-dollar deals
right- and left-handed pitchers right-and-left swaying motion

Compounds involving numbers, if they serve as adjectives, may require more than one hyphen:

twenty cents a twenty-cent bet twenty-five cents a twenty-five-cent bet

2. Divide words at the end of lines to make margins and spacing regular. Start at the top of the page, for each hyphen may change the rest of the paragraph. Divide words only at syllable breaks.

Never divide a one-syllable word or a word of five or fewer letters. Never leave short syllables (one or two letters) at the end or the beginning of a line. Divide compounds like self-educated only at the existing hyphen: after self-, not after self-edu-.

3. Hy T: typography. Do not confuse hyphens with dashes.

HYPHEN: The word-dividing hyphen is a shorter mark that goes within words.

DASH: The dash--a longer mark--goes between words and divides sentences.

Never put a hyphen at the left margin. Leave no blank space between the syllable and hyphen.

WRONG: self - RIGHT: self-

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Hy X: misuse of hyphens. If your teacher marks "Hy X," identify the error you committed:

Distinguish compound adjectives from phrases that are not compound adjectives:

He is in his ninth-grade year. He is in the ninth grade. He is a ninth grader.

Do not use a hyphen when an -ly adverb modifies an adjective:

WRONG: racially-biased, nearly-finished

RIGHT: racially biased, nearly finished

Well is an adverb; it needs no hyphen. A hyphen is optional if the well phrase precedes the noun:

WRONG: The job is well-done.

OPTIONAL: a well done job; a well-done job

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Cap: capitalization. If your teacher marks "Cap," write the rule you violated.

1. Use capitals for proper nouns and lower case for common nouns.

COMMON NOUNS: nation, baseball player

PROPER NOUNS: Korea, Babe Ruth

2. Capitalize the first word of a sentence. The rule applies even if the sentence is quoted or in dialogue. Do not capitalize a quoted word or phrase. Do not capitalize the first word after a colon unless it is the first word of a quoted sentence.

3. Capitalize honorary titles when they refer to individuals. Use lower case when they refer to a category of people (doctors, kings, popes) in general:

the doctor, many admirals, past presidents

Dr. Mamiya, Admiral Nimitz, President Ford

Capitalize a word like mother or uncle only when it is part of a familiar name:

I have two uncles. I love my mother.
I like Uncle Chet. I love you, Mother.

4. Capitalize directions only when you use them as nouns to refer to regions.

LOWER CASE: Ohio is north of Kentucky. We lived three miles to the east.

CAPITAL: Fugitive slaves fled to the North. I enjoyed my tour of the Middle East.

5. Capitalize titles of literary and other works. In both titles and subtitles, capitalize the first and last word, and all other words except articles (a, an, the), conjunctions and prepositions. Capitalize the words that follow hyphens in compound words.

Self-Consuming Artifacts: The Experience of Seventeenth-Century Literature

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Cap X: misuse. Do not use capitals for common nouns or to indicate emphasis.

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