I see in legal writing the use of double brackets in a quote to indicate part of the quote is deleted, such as: "All work [] makes Johnny a very dull boy." I thought the correct way to do this quote would have been "All work ... makes Johnny a very dull boy." Could you tell me when the brackets with no words between them is used correctly? Thanks.

  • 1
    Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/5972/…
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 22:26
  • There is no such thing as "the correct way to do this quote". There are as many "correct" ways as there are style guides which happen to mention it, and possibly other common ways which are not in any style guide. Not one of these has any more authority than you wish to grant it.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 23:44
  • 2
    And legal writing is a thing unto itself (or we wouldn't need the Bluebook).
    – bib
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 0:24

1 Answer 1


Bryan Garner is maybe the leading prescriptive guru on legal writing. Here is what he says in Legal Writing in Plain English:

On the correct use of brackets:

Acceptable Use

Use a pair of brackets in a quotation to enclose an editorial comment, correction, explanation, interpolation, substitution, or translation that was not in the original text.

Use a pair of brackets around any character that you change in or add to quoted material.

Use a pair of brackets to show the deletion of part of a word.

Unacceptable Use

Don’t use brackets in place of ellipsis dots when one or more words have been deleted without any replacement language.


On the correct use of ellipsis dots:

Use three ellipsis dots to denote that you have omitted something from a sentence.


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