Do you use brackets the same way you use parentheses?

Use brackets

to enclose the values that are the limits of a confidence interval.

  • Example:
    95% CIs [-7.2, 4.3], [9.2, 12.4], and [-1.2, -0.5]

to enclose parenthetical material that is already within parentheses.

  • Example:
    (The results for the control group [n = 8] are also presented in Figure 2.)

to enclose material inserted in a quotation by some person other than the original writer.

  • Example:
    "when [his own and others'] behaviors were studied" (Hanisch, 1992, p. 24)

to include nonroutine information in a reference

  • Example:
    Van Nuys, D. (Producer). (2007, December 19). Shrink rap radio [Audio podcast].
         Retrieved from


Exception 1: Do not use brackets if the material can be set off easily with commas without confounding meaning:

  • Correct: (as Imai, 1990, later concluded)
  • Incorrect: (as Imai [1990] later concluded)

Exception 2: In mathematical material, the placement of brackets and parentheses is reversed; that is, parentheses appear within brackets.

(adapted from the sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual, © 2010)

APA Style Blog

APA Style experts and guests tackle a variety of style topics each week in the APA Style Blog.

Browse Learning Resources