Many of you find our use of square brackets a bit confusing, and rightly so. We’ve had a short discussion about this issue and this is the outcome.Image of square bracketsWhen should we use square brackets? First of all, it depends on the type of translation. We only use them in official translations – either selective or full – that are printed on our letterhead paper. If you are doing a translation that is not going to be printed on our letterhead paper, e.g. brochures, web content etc., then you should not use square brackets at all.

When you do need to use them, it is mostly for place names, or for information that isn’t stated (‘[not stated]’ in selective translations). If the document states a village or city and bears the stamp of a state, then include the name of that state as well – without square brackets. For instance, most Punjabi birth certificates will state a village and will bear the logo of the Punjabi state. This is sufficient information to insert ‘Punjab, India’ without square brackets. However, if a birth certificate doesn’t bear that stamp, but you know from your research that the village or city is located in Punjab, India, then you’ll need to put that information between square brackets.

In official full translations, you might need to use them for stamps (in that case, the formatting for this is ‘[stamp: xxx]’), signatures (‘[signed]’), logos (‘[logo]’), and other useful information (e.g. ‘[page 2]’, ‘[Translated from French]’, and so on). Do not use them for anything else! If ‘and’ isn’t stated in the source text, but would be good in the translation, don’t insert it between square brackets.

Just remember to use square brackets wisely.

Leave a comment to ask us questions if anything is unclear, or share your tips and tricks with other TTS translators.