Using Hyphens, Brackets, Ellipses & Quotation Marks

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  • 0:01 Punctuation
  • 0:34 Hyphens
  • 1:52 Brackets
  • 3:02 Ellipses
  • 4:17 Quotation Marks
  • 5:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Writing not only consists of letters and words but many forms of punctuation. Watch this video lesson to learn about four types of punctuation: hyphens, brackets, ellipses, and quotation marks.


Developing a written language changed our society forever. Nowadays, you are constantly bombarded with a wide variety of text everywhere you turn. However, in order for this text to be effective communication, writing needs to have punctuation. Punctuation is defined as the marks in writing used to clarify meaning. In this lesson, we will discuss four types of punctuation used in writing: hyphens, brackets, ellipses, and quotations.


The first type of punctuation is the hyphen. If you are familiar with dashes, hyphens will look very similar. The only difference visually is that a hyphen is shorter. This is a dash ( -- ) and this is a hyphen ( - ). While dashes are used to set off phrases within sentences, hyphens are used within compound words.

The first way to use a hyphen is to combine two or more adjectives. Remember, adjectives describe nouns. Let's look at this phrase as an example: 'one-way street.' This phrase combined the adjectives 'one' and 'way' to describe the noun 'street.' The hyphen connects the two descriptions. This method can also be used with nouns. For example, 'forty-seven' and 'sixty-two' use a hyphen to combine numbers.

A second way to use a hyphen is to break up a word at the end of a line of text. However, in order to do this, you must break the word between syllables only. For example, if you wanted to break up the word 'community,' insert hyphens at the syllables: 'com-mu-ni-ty.' So, if you are nearing the end of the line you may write 'commu-' at the end of the line and then begin the next line with 'nity.'


A second type of punctuation is the bracket. You can think of brackets as square parentheses. Brackets look like this: [ ]. Similar to parentheses, brackets include clarifying information. Usually, you use parentheses if the information is more of an aside, which is an off-topic idea. On the other hand, if the information further explains the text, you use brackets. For example, look at the first sentence in Abraham Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address: ''Four score and seven years ago… .'' To clarify this, you can insert brackets. ''Four score and seven [87] years ago… .'' In this case, the brackets provide a further explanation.

A second use for brackets is to change the wording of a quote. Sometimes when you quote someone, you need to change the wording in order for it to fit in your sentence. For example, according to Winston Churchill's biographer, ''[he] was an outspoken and strong leader.'' In this sentence, brackets show that within the quote 'he' has replaced the name 'Winston Churchill.' In this way, you can manipulate quoted material, as long as the meaning is not lost.

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