That Stupid [ Key

(I spent so long weighing up whether to put inverted commas around the ‘[‘ in the title)

I’m a fan of the humble square bracket, a piece of punctuation most useful for shoehorning quotes from poems and novels into essays, tenses and tones the original lines were never designed to be awkwardly crammed into (which I do a lot), although I have never understood why it, and whatever the frak { and } are, get their own key on a keyboard, when the poor colon has to be a shift-based alternative to its supposedly little sibling, the semi-colon. But now, the square brackets are actively pissing me off; due to a mechanical issue with the left square bracket key – the [ key – my computer thinks the [ key is pressed whenever any pressure is placed on it, instead of it actually being pushed down by a conscious effort; in practice, this means that as I fling my fingers from key to key in the top-left corner of the keyboard, I’m liable to drift my pinky over the [ key, and a random [ pops up in my essays and blog posts without me wanting it to.

And, frankly, I’m sick of picking through my writings, to check if random words are prefaced with square brackets! If they come at the start of words, for instance, they’re not picked up as spelling mistakes, so they often go uncorrected and essays are full of the damn things; and now I’m overcompensating, having spent months looking for square brackets and developing a sixth sense for these most angular borderers of words, that I assume every instance of one is a mistake, which made writing that [-heavy opening paragraph, and any essay where I use them for their intended purposes, a source of minor heart attacks as I proofread them.

It’s also affecting the rest of my typing, as I become more cautious in pressing down on the keys, in an attempt to train my pinky to not be so abrasive when drifting over the [ key (which is itself pointless because, and I’ve tested this, that key will act like its pressed if so much as a feather lands on it). This means that I often miss out random letters from words, while, irony of ironies, not cutting down on the number of random [s dotted throughout my prose; basically, [s are taking the places of my intended letters, and my written language as a whole is steadily degenerating into a mess of obscure punctuation marks that don’t even make cool smileys.

So apologies if posts have, or continue to have, random square brackets in them; I’m doing my best to get rid of it, but they’re persistent little f[ckers.


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