Brackets and Parentheses

Brackets [ and ] are reserved for the use of editors for notes and words not present on the recording and added to the transcript. Examples:

  • The other class that I remember in particular, being particularly inspiring, was the ethics classes with Findley Edge [ed. note: later clarifies as Henlee Barnette], who was just a jewel and a truly unique and wonderful person.
  • There was an anatomy prof at Galveston called [Raymond] Blount. And Dr. Blount was one of the most memorable characters that I’ve ever known.
  • So where did you have to report to for basic? Were you up at Great Lakes [Naval Base]?
  • I never taught — manpower development is what they called it back then. I mean, some students would write a paper about it, but CETA [Comprehensive Employment and Training Act] and all that stuff, I just personally wasn’t interested in it.
  • [overlapping] insert at the beginning of a paragraph when the speaker spoke at the same time as the end of the previous paragraph.
  • Translations of non-English words
  • Biblical allusions or idioms
  • Memes and allusions to literature, art, culture that are not explicitly cited.

Imagine the person that is listening and reading at the same time. Inserted phrases in brackets are appropriate when they provide clarity to the listener who cannot reasonably process in real time; e.g., incorrect grammar, extremely fragmented sentences, etc.

Full names may be added in brackets when a nickname is used in speech if it is unclear or ambiguous to whom the name is referring. Context is the chief criteria for making this decision. Often, full names may be in brackets if the nicknamed person is not a main character in the story. (Example: Tom Torrance is not bracketed as "Thomas Torrance" because the nickname is not ambiguous and because he is a main character in the story.)

Brackets may be used to clarify the name of a person when referring to them by a title (ex. "Professor Torrance [Thomas Torrance]"). The use of brackets in these instances is discretionary; if it is non-ambiguous to whom the speaker is referring, the editor may choose to omit brackets. In instances where title recur, brackets may only be necessary for the first reference.

Brackets may be used to clarify terms that are unfamiliar to a large group of people. For example, there may be a term that is common in America but not other parts of the world. This is particularly helpful for geographical or historical terms that are out of date or have changed with time.

Parentheses should be used to indicate extraneous sounds that occur during the narration. Examples include vocal sounds, such as laughing, or non-verbal sounds, such as the ringing of a telephone. Parentheses should not be used for explanatory comments.

The capitalization for parentheses should follow standard grammar rules.

And I think it was that that actually won the day. (Laughs.)
And I think it was that (laughing) that actually won the day.

Information included in brackets and parentheses should be concise and unobtrusive.