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What do the first, second, and fourth bracketed letters in "retreating," "the," and "to" indicate below? I've frequently encountered similar examples like these in others' writing. What exactly is meant by the use of brackets around the second letters of words?

Image below from http://dianahacker.com/pdfs/hacker-bish-cms.pdf — one of Diana Hacker's handbooks [reproduced under fair use]:

Image of PDF source

A Southern reporter traveling with Forrest makes clear that the discrimination was deliberate: “Our troops maddened by the excitement, shot down the ret[r]eating Yankees, and not until they had attained t[h]e water’s edge and turned to beg for mercy, did any prisoners fall in [t]o our hands . . . .

References given in the PDF are

18 Foote, Civil War, 111.
19 Cimprich and Mainfort, “Fort Pillow,” 304.
20 Quoted in Wills, Battle from the Start, 189.

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Scroll down to page 6 in the PDF file. –  whippoorwill Apr 7 '13 at 12:18
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1. Please include the image of what you want people to look at; it should be part of your question. Expecting people to download an external PDF, run a program to look at it, and then scroll and scroll to find your citation is asking too much; just show us. 2. Why is this tagged parentheses when there are none in the cited text? 3. The practice of using square brackets to modify the original text for correctness and legibility is a matter of General Reference. –  tchrist Apr 7 '13 at 12:25
    
The Massacre at Fort Pillow: Holding Nathan Bedford Forrest ... www.writework.com/.../massacre-fort- ...Jan 24, 2010 – Although Northern newspapers of the time no doubt exaggerated ... shot down the ret[r]eating Yankees, and not until they had attained t[h]e water's edge and turned to beg for mercy, did any ... –  whippoorwill Apr 7 '13 at 12:37
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I'm dying to know...what about the third? –  Mitch Apr 7 '13 at 17:51
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closed as general reference by tchrist, Carlo_R., RegDwigнt Apr 7 '13 at 20:06

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

1 Answer

In that case they probably indicate that the letters are not in the original text, but that the editor has inserted them so that the passage makes sense.

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Along the lines of this (or something similar)? A Southern reporter traveling with Forrest makes clear that the discrimination was deliberate: “Our troops maddened by the excitement, shot down the reteating Yankees, and not until they had attained te water’s edge and turned to beg for mercy, did any prisoners fall in o our hands . . . . –  whippoorwill Apr 7 '13 at 12:24
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Yes, I would guess so. –  Barrie England Apr 7 '13 at 12:32
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It may equally be a transcription error; OCR often misses single characters, particularly handwritten. –  TimLymington Apr 7 '13 at 12:48
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