Date and bracket conventions

iota's picture

Just wondering what the conventions are for date formatting ie. separators, and text within brackets.

For dates which is the conventional way to format a date?

11/05/04, or 11.05.04. If the former is correct, is the latter acceptable?

For brackets my question is in regard to capital letter usage.

Example 1:
"Please forward the information to me by mail (please tick)."

Should it be (Please tick)? I think the correct way is lower case, but I just want to be sure.

Example 2:
"(One complimentary ticket is included upon entry)".

I think the correct way here is uppercase, again not 100% sure.

If it's how I think it is, you should only use uppercase for text inside brackets when the information within the brackets is a new sentance.

rjohnston's picture

Dates: slashes are used more in the US and UK, periods used more in continental Europe (in my experience). Both are acceptable. You've got to watch the order though -- US is MM/DD/YY, UK/Europe is DD/MM/YY. More people these days are using YYYY at the end because of the awkward zero.

Brackets: always lowercase. New sentences should NOT start within brackets. Parentheses are always contained withing a parent sentence. The only exception is if you're quoting, where the speaker is beginning a new sentence (which will obviously be preceded by an open quote within the open bracket).


rjohnston's picture

That's 'contained within' (not 'withing') ...



pstanley's picture

Re brackets. This is a grammar issue not a typographical one.

Pace Robert Johnston, there is no rule that parens may not contain a whole sentence, or for that matter a whole paragraph. The only rule is: if the parens contain a full and separate sentence, then they enclose the concluding full stop. (I could, if you like, give an example.) If the sentence is not complete, the punctuation falls outside the parens (like this). That remains true even if the matter in parenthesis could have been a complete sentence if one chose to make it so.

To this there is one exception: if the brackets contain a question or an explanation (do they ever? yes!) then the concluding stop falls inside the brackets, even when the sentence in which they are embedded remains to be concluded.

rjohnston's picture

My bad, Paul. I'm being overprescriptive and confusing grammar with style.

I should clarify that, while all that you say is right on the button, stylistically entire sentences within brackets are to be avoided.


Nine cases have been identified. (Six were fatal overdoses and three were non-fatal overdoses.)


Nine cases have been identified. Six were fatal overdoses and three were non-fatal overdoses.


Nine cases have been identified (six fatal overdoses and three non-fatal overdoses).

As far as I've been taught, the first one is, as you say, grammatically unassailable -- but stylistically wack. It's effectively kind of a tautology to use both brackets and a new sentence. There are, I imagine, instances when it's necessary, but on the whole the less punctuation you can get away with the better.

You're right on the rules -- I'm right on the style. I think.


pstanley's picture

I guess as with any point of style there are occasions which justify a departure from the norm, but generally speaking I agree.

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