I wonder why the author used two parentheses in the sentence below:

While touring the Center for Agrobiotechnology at Monterrey Tech, its director, Guy Cardineau, a scientist from Arizona, remarked to me that, in 2011, “my son-in-law returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan and we talked about having him come down and visit for Christmas. But he told me the U.S. military said he couldn’t come because of the ((State Department)) travel advisory here. I thought that was very ironic.

Is there any special rule regarding parenthetical statements? Isn’t one set sufficient?

  • 4
    I don't know where you found your version of the news story, but this version has square brackets [like these]. My guess is that someone typed the article and, for some reason, used double parens ((like these)) in lieu of square brackets. (Maybe the square brackets weren't available in that font or something, or maybe the characters were mistranslated from a scan?)
    – J.R.
    Commented Feb 28, 2013 at 21:26
  • In the Olden Days of manual typewriters, square brackets would not be available. I once saw square-brackets manufactured using a slash / and two underscores, one on the line above.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Feb 28, 2013 at 22:24

1 Answer 1


The double parentheses indicate an interpolation which would normally be indicated with brackets:

But he told me the U.S. military said he couldn’t come because of the [State Department] travel advisory here.

The brackets enclose text which is not actually part of the quotation but necessary to provide additional context, to allow full understanding.

Using single parentheses would not provide the level of “offset” which the interpolation needs: if the speaker himself had used a parenthetical clause it would be indicated with single parentheses. Double parentheses indicate that it is not the speaker’s interpolation but the reporter’s.

  • Oh. @J.R. and I agree again.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Feb 28, 2013 at 21:28
  • Interestingly enough, this Google search shows a few dozen instances of the quote, with [square brackets], (parentheses), or ((double parens)). The double parens are least common, but found here.
    – J.R.
    Commented Feb 28, 2013 at 21:36

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