I sometimes see parentheses around only part of a word. What does this mean? For example, someone typed the phrase "mission (im)possible". I am unsure what the significance is of putting parentheses around (im).

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    I have no idea what you mean. Can you at least give an example? – chasly from UK Jul 19 '15 at 0:07
  • I might, for example, (semi-)facetiously suggest this sentence. But I'm with @chasly - we need example(s) from OP (That's to say: I'm closevoting as "Unclear what you're asking" :) – FumbleFingers Jul 19 '15 at 0:18
  • I see this in academia recently. Like "(e)racing childhood" or "(en)gender." it's not cute. – Tom Dec 6 '16 at 1:09

The example you give seems to be trying to sneak an additional meaning in;

The author wants you to read the sentence both ways:

"Saving the firm was a Mission Impossible."
"Saving the firm was a mission (that he saw as) possible with skill/effort."

Here's another example, this time implying criticism of a mad scientist:

"The whole programme was (experi)mental."

meaning the programme was both 'mental' and experimental in the speaker's view.

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A(n) set of parenthesis within a word has the same function as using them in a sentence (to provide supplemental information)

In this case, the supplemental information is a dynamic letter.

A(n) apple


Generally you see this syntax in technical writing.

supplemental letter

Using this parenthesis tip sheet, you can get a broader idea of the use of parentheses.

I don't believe there is an actual word for this kind of thing. Perhaps

letter splicing?

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  • Can you provide a definition - or at least example(s) for this use of "supplemental letter"? To me it just means an additional missive (written communication, correspondence), alternatively expressed as supplementary letter. – FumbleFingers Jul 19 '15 at 1:10
  • Whatever - I'm downvoting because although OP hasn't as yet given any examples, he does say part of a word rather than letter, so we've no reason to suppose my (semi-)facetious suggestion doesn't qualify. In which case neither dynamic nor supplemental letter would meet the requirement. – FumbleFingers Jul 19 '15 at 1:19
  • You have put an example in your question. – dockeryZ Jul 19 '15 at 1:19
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    But I'm not the OP! I'm just being whimsical for the sake of it - I don't really see why anyone would answer this question until we know what kinds of "bracketed parts of words" are being asked about here. It's not supposed to be a guessing game. – FumbleFingers Jul 19 '15 at 1:22
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    I'll be fine once the meds kick in, dockeryZ. @Renee - following your (minimally) clarifying edit, I've retracted my closevote. Your specific example is probably some kind of joke, but if it's from this Chinese reality TV (show? movie?) as listed on IMDB, it might not really "mean" anything at all (I certainly don't get the joke). In other contexts it's as the usage in my initial comment, where the bracketed text is "optional", and may either add clarification, or (whimsically) present a slightly different meaning. – FumbleFingers Jul 19 '15 at 1:47

To expand on Marc's answer, square (or plain) brackets are sometimes used to "fix" a quote.

For example, if someone were to say:

'I watched Simpsons last night and it was funny episode.'

It might be rewritten as:

'I watched [The] Simpsons last night and it was [a] funny episode.'

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The brackets are used in order to denote it as something taken directly from and exactly as another text or statement.

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  • 2
    No, that's square brackets, and they indicate a minor incidental change in a quote. – deadrat Jul 19 '15 at 5:56
  • @deadrat You're correct; however, I have seen plain brackets used. – Dog Lover Jul 19 '15 at 8:35
  • @DogLover Not my downvote, by the way. – deadrat Jul 19 '15 at 8:38
  • Marc DM, not my downvote, by the way. – deadrat Jul 19 '15 at 8:40

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