FW: Hurray for brackets [ ]

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Sun Aug 14 05:23:08 UTC 2005

Here's great news about better punctuation in newspapers. BB


From: not_honyaku at yahoogroups.com [mailto:not_honyaku at yahoogroups.com] On
Behalf Of Mark Spahn
Sent: Saturday, August 13, 2005 9:49 PM
To: editor at buffnews.com
Cc: bobrien at buffnews.com
Subject: Hurray for brackets [ ]

Dear editor:

On page D3 of the Saturday, August 13, 2005 Buffalo News
is an article by Barbara O'Brien reporting the renaming of a
Cheektowaga street after Sgt. Cari Ann Gasiewicz, who was
killed in Iraq.  The last paragraph reads

          "[The street name] would be an ideal change, said
     town Council Member Thomas M. Johnson Jr.  "She is a
     hero of the town."

I think this is the first time I have ever seen this particular punctuation
mark -- the brackets [ ] -- in the Buffalo News.  This is an encouraging

By contrast, take a look at the business-page article on page D7
of the same issue, titled "Waffle House still dishin' diner food and
personality", which is written (in the folksy style of a company
public-relations handout) by Associated Press reporter Kristen Wyatt.
Two sentences from that article:

          "You know at every (highway) exit there's a shimmering
     pot of grits waiting for you," said John Edge, director of the
     Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi.


          Forkner and Rogers no longer run the company (it's headed
     by Joe Rogers Jr.), but executives still are required to work
     holidays, including Christmas and New Year's.

In the first example, the parentheses around "highway" indicate
that this word was added by the reporter, to explain what kind
of exit the quoted speaker is referring to.  In this case, brackets
would  be the appropriate punctuation to use, not parentheses.

In the second example, the parenthesized expression truly is
parenthetical, rather than an explanatory note added to a quotation.

Why, I wonder, does the Associated Press still use parentheses
in instances where brackets are called for?  My two-bit theory
is that this originates from the days when AP stories were transmitted
to newspapers by teletype (telex), which had a character set of only 32
characters and did not include the bracket characters "[" and "]" but only
the left and right parentheses "(" and ")", as explained here:


It is good to see that the Buffalo News has gone beyond the
punctuation technology of the 1920's.  Maybe some day the
Associated Press will too.

Mark Spahn    (West Seneca)

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