Sunday, November 25, 2007


I think brackets should be used in regular writings, where appropriate. For example, in the article "Free My Phone" that I posed earlier, it says
  • breaking the link between (the producers of goods and services) and (the people who use them)
If the brackets were omitted, it could be interpreted as
  • breaking [the link (between the producers of goods and services)] and (the people who use them)
which is wrong.

Let me give another example that is more relevant to our daily life: "Combo meal includes beverage, desert, soup or fries". Which one is it?
  • (beverage, desert, soup) or fries. (3 or 1 item)
  • beverage, desert, (soup or fries). (always 3 items)
Let me give yet another example from a computer game
  • red (wolf meat). (the meat is red)
  • (red wolf) meat. (the wolf is red)
In fact, Civilization IV has adopted the use of brackets when appropriate to describe tech tree prerequisites. For example, fiber optics requires "computers and (plastics or satellites)".


D. Corey Sanderson said...

In the second case, you could opt for use of a serial comma, thus eliminating any reason for thinking "oh, maybe the three previous to the 'or' are their own option".

Serial commas are not wrong or right, it is preference...sometimes they make things less ambiguous.

ChoChoPK said...

Yes, you could use a serial comma. There's probably a unique and unambiguous way to write down a short expression. You don't really think I want to start a linguistic revolution here, do you? I just want to point out the use of bracket makes it easier to read (at least for me) and has less room for mistakes. It is also a valid method to describe an logical expression when speaking. Alternatively, you can explicitly say "comma", or use long pause in the place of a comma. Like you said, they're not right or wrong. It's just that I personally prefer brackets.