sallyhanan’s blog

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Using Commas before Names or Titles August 1, 2009


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An appositive is an adjective that means: relating to.
Apposition is when you have two nouns that refer to the same thing, i.e. girl/Sarah or dad/Henry or Ms. White/teacher.

So when you have these two nouns, that relate to each other, sitting beside each other in a sentence (now called appositives), do you use a comma to set off the second one or don’t you?

See if you know by mentally putting commas where they should go:

1. My younger brother John made me dinner.
2. Mr. Smith’s wife Jackie made a fool of herself.
3. My friend Flora played with me.
4. One of her novels Sniffling in the Wind has had its film rights acquired.

1. My younger brother, John, made me dinner.
I only have one younger brother.

2. Mr. Smith’s wife, Jackie, made a fool of herself.
Mr. Smith only has one wife (at least, we hope so).

3. My friend Flora played with me.
I have a few friends.

4. One of her novels Sniffling in the Wind has had its filming rights acquired.
She’s written a few novels.

In other words, if the information after the noun is vital, you don’t set it off with commas. If it is not vital, then you do.

Vital=no commas
Not vital=commas

                                                               

Let’s see if you got the hang of it. Figure out where the commas go again.

1. Tom Cruise’s role in the movie Jerry McGuire catapulted him to fame.
2. The school’s director Mr. Bellringer was not impressed with the boys’ behavior.
3. Benaiah son of Jehoiada chased a lion down into a pit.
4. The fourth president James Madison was born in 1971.

1. Tom Cruise’s role in the movie Jerry McGuire catapulted him to fame.
2. The school’s director, Mr. Bellringer, was not impressed with the boys’ behavior.
3. Benaiah son of Jehoiada chased a lion down into a pit. (Assuming that Benaiah was a common name back then, which would make the extra information essential.)
4. The fourth president, James Madison, was born in 1971.

 

 

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4 Responses to “Using Commas before Names or Titles”

  1. don reiber Says:

    that’s thomas jefferson, not james madison

  2. Fran Says:

    Interesting piece, but I suspect British punctuation is once again quite different. I do have such a problem with writing for the US market. Cannot say, for instance, “Jim is from Toronto, Ontario and is married.” ‘Ontario and is married’ just looks plain weird to me.

    So enjoy your postings, Sally. Always worth reading.


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