I have the sentence fragment:

each in itself for achieving this pure abstraction of being-for-itself

and I'd like to incorporate it into my paper so that the quotation reads as follows:

They eventually "achieve the pure abstraction of being for itself"

I know that brackets go around any modified text, but I'm unclear if they "jump across" word boundaries. Do I render this as:

They eventually "achiev[e the] pure abstraction of..."


They eventually "achiev[e] [the] pure abstraction of..."

I also tend to use "verb[]" to indicate that a suffix has been dropped from a word. Would the usage be the same in that case? Say, for example, I want to make "She was reading the book" into "She read a book." Would this be:

"She read[] [a] book"


"She read[ a] book"

In both cases, the version with two sets of brackets looks awkward to me, but the version with a single set looks like it might be a typographical error.

I looked at existing questions about brackets but I couldn't find any relating to brackets that cross word boundaries, I apologize if this is a dupe.

1 Answer 1


You use a single set or brackets to make a single amendment covering all the cases, unless they are spanning more than one line.

The brackets contain the text that you have added. If you have modified a form in a way that cannot be expressed through a bracketed addition, then brackets contain the entire word:

Original: "achieving pure abstraction …"

Amended: They eventually "[achieve the] pure abstraction of…"

Original: "She was reading the book."

Amended: "She [read a] book".

Remember, you are trying to balance two goals only:

  1. Making a clear distinction between the original quote, and any amendments made.
  2. Interrupting reading flow as little as possible.

You do not want to give a full record of your changes. If that is necessary, then you should make the original unedited material available.

All that said, it is ideal to do as little violence to the original as possible. I know the above are meant to be examples only, and as such may not be very realistic, but they seem like cases where you would be well-advised either to reword so as to not need to change the quote, or to paraphrase the source rather than directly quoting (including the direct quote elsewhere, if necessary).

  • Yes; I sometimes use the terms 'tidied' for very minor corrections, and 'paraphrased' when I've felt that some changes were desirable, if only for a different readership or to preserve grammaticality (as in OP's case) say. Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 17:01

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