May 07, 2012

Grammar Hammer: Two No-Hitters [Baseball and Brackets]

The ball-and-bat season is in full swing now, and pitchers these days are making no-hitters seem like no big deal (almost). Just last month, Chicago White Sox right-hander Philip Humber threw a perfect game; and a few days ago, Los Angeles Angels’ pitcher Jered Weaver threw a no-hitter against the Minnesota Twins.

After the game, Weaver told reporters: “I’m at a loss for words right now. Guys were picking me up left and right. I can’t believe this [the no-hitter].”

This quote from Weaver showcases how to use brackets to clarify a statement. In this case, I used brackets to explain that the word “this” refers to “the no-hitter” he pitched.

Brackets [ ] are mainly used to:

  1. Mark changes to quoted material
  2. Enclose an aside or digression already within parentheses

If you add or alter words in a direct quotation, even just a few, courtesy and ethics require you to indicate which words are your own. Doing less amounts to misquoting the original speaker or author.

Changes to a direct quote should be brief and minor. If you’re doing more than that, it’s better to add your comments after the exact quote or simply paraphrase the original words.

It’s best to not use parentheses for this because they have other functions (and you wouldn’t want to confuse your readers). Also, curly brackets { } and angle brackets < > have special uses in technical fields and don’t belong in general prose.

Clarifying original material:

  • Original quote: “The batter hit a towering fly ball to center field.”
  • Revised: “The batter hit [the a towering fly ball] to center field.”
  • Alternative: “The batter hit it [the towering fly ball] to center field.”

If your changes replace the original words, you must preserve the original grammar.

Expanding original material:

  • Original quote: The no-hitters featured Jared Weaver and Philip Humber.
  • Revised quote: The games featured [Los Angeles Angels pitcher] Jared Weaver and [White Sox pitcher] Philip Humber.

When your changes expand the original quote, you do not need to preserve original grammar.

Adding quoted words to a new sentence:

If you are adding quoted material to a sentence you’re writing, you may need to change the original words to be grammatically correct.

  • Original:  “I offered Weaver’s pitching stats to the press.”
  • Revision:  The news announcer “[was offering] Weaver’s pitching stats to the press” when he was hit by a foul ball.

Shortening a quotation:

If a quote is too long to use in its entirety, indicate a break in the original words with an ellipsis (…). And if you resume the quote in the middle of a sentence, indicate that resumption by capitalizing the first word via brackets.

  • Original:  Weaver learned baseball from his dad, who happened to be there for his no-hitter game. The Los Angeles Angels trounced the Minnesota Twins 9 to 0. He said he was lucky they played the game at home, where his dad could see it live.
  • Revision: Weaver learned baseball from his dad… [He] was lucky they played the game at home, where his dad could see it live.

So, which has more rules – the Associated Press style or Major League Baseball? Maybe we’ll know by the end of the season.

Written by Grace Lavigne, senior editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. Grammar Hammer is published weekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Grace, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

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