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In English, is there a word to describe the compact writing style in the example below?

The highest (lowest) recorded temperature was 20°C (5°C).

meaning

The highest recorded temperature was 20°C, and the lowest was 5°C.

I encounter this sometimes in academic texts, particularly when there is a strict word count limit. I quite dislike it. Does it have a name?

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There are alternative compact writing styles such as: "The highest and lowest recorded temperatures were 20°C and 5°C respectively." and "The extremum recorded temperatures were 20°C and 5°C.". –  Danny Oct 17 '12 at 10:13
    
True. The latter works in the current example, but not in every context. Not sure about the former. Nevertheless, I do encounter the described style, unfortunately. –  gerrit Oct 17 '12 at 11:50
    
The former example works in every context. I have also see examples like: "The highest(/lowest) recorded temperature was 20°C(/5°C).", where the slashes help explain that the brackets contain alternatives. –  Danny Oct 17 '12 at 12:23
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3 Answers 3

One compact form of writing that attempts to fit the most information in as few words as possible is called telegram style (or telegraph style). it derives its name from the practice of limiting words in telegrams which were priced by the word.

The classic approach to this style eliminated articles, conjunctions and reduce sentences to one or two words, often omitting subjects as well. Telegraph style typically omits punctuation symbols (and actually uses the word STOP to stand for the period), so parenthetical reliance may be seen as inconsistent with this definition.

The article suggests related terms are cablese and telegraphese. The article also characterizes the brusque form as Hemingwayesque, but the text had better be pretty good before invoking a comparison to the author's punchy and transparent prose.

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The authors of these types of sentences are attempting an economy of expression or an economic use of words. There is the term brachylogia or brachylogy for this. It has the following meanings:

  • A rhetorical term for a concise or condensed form of expression in speech or writing. Contrast with: battology.
  • Brachylogia: Brevity of diction; abbreviated construction; word or words omitted. A modern theorist differentiated this use from ellipsis in that the elements missing are more subtly, less artificially, omitted in ellipsis."
  • brachylogia (brachiologia; brachylogy; brachiology) Concision of speech or writing; thus also any condensed form of expression

I think you are correct that this style is often forced by a word or character limit. It is not a particularly elegant style, but it is understandable and communicates the facts that the author intended (at least in your example).

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I'm not sure if it has a specific term in an academic context, but the general term for the use of brackets like that is 'parenthesis'.

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