Command syntax notation conventions

Convention Usage


Identifies commands and their options and operands, code examples, filenames, pathnames, and output displayed in a command window. Items that appear like the example text in the previous column are to be entered exactly as shown and are required unless enclosed in brackets ([ ]).


In code and screen examples, indicates text entered by a user.

Any of the following:

  • <example-text>

  • <example-text>

  • example-text

  • example-text

Identifies a placeholder—such as a parameter or a variable—that you must substitute with an actual value in a command or in code:

  • For output formats where italic text cannot be displayed, variables are enclosed in angle brackets (< >). Substitute the text—including the enclosing angle brackets—with an actual value.

  • For output formats where italic text can be displayed, variables might or might not be enclosed in angle brackets. Substitute the text including the enclosing angle brackets, if any, with an actual value.


Vertical bar. A logical OR that separates multiple items from which you can choose only one.

Any spaces that are on either side of the vertical bar are included for readability and are not a required part of the command syntax.

{ }

Braces. Indicates that at least one of the enclosed items is required.

[ ]

Brackets. Indicates that the enclosed item or items are optional.




  • In code and screen examples, a vertical or horizontal ellipsis indicates an omission of information.
  • In syntax using brackets and braces, an ellipsis indicates items that can be repeated. When an item followed by ellipses is enclosed in brackets, zero or more items can be specified.