Punctuation Pitfalls – The Comma, Part 7

Commas Used with Appositives.

I think we’re coming to the end of comma-use tips. Because I’m trying to explain some of the more technical uses that often snag writers, I don’t think I’ll address their placement in dates and addresses. I’m sure there are other sites that give that basic information.

So today I’ll tackle “appositives.” The easiest way to think of these is as two ways of naming the same person, place or thing. For example:

  • Los Angeles Lakers=NBA champs
  • Rebecca LuElla Miller=freelance writer and editor
  • the Bible=the Word of God

One sentence construction separates these two ways of naming the same thing with a verb:

    The Los Angeles Lakers are the current NBA champs.
    Rebecca LuElla Miller has been a freelance writer and editor since 2002.
    The Bible is the inspired Word of God.

In such instances, there is no appositive and therefor no commas.

But, you might be thinking, you said appositives are two ways of naming the same thing. True. But they must also be side by side, without a verb between. Here are some examples:

    The Los Angeles Lakers, the current NBA champs, have a good chance of repeating this year.

    I’ve hired Rebecca LuElla Miller, a freelance writer and editor since 2002.

    The Bible, God’s inspired Word, is the authority upon which we can rely.

For the record, the second of the two words or phrases, the portion I underlined, is the appositive. It is in “apposition” to the one it renames.

In most instances, the appositive is adding extra material much the same as non-restrictive phrases, and therefore requires commas (or a single comma if the appositive is at the end of a sentence). However, in some cases (the exception you were probably expecting 😉 ) the appositive is closely related to what it renames and therefore necessary to the understanding of the sentence. In those instances no comma is needed.

Here are a few examples:

    My dog Baylea was sick last night. (Owner has more than one dog, so Baylea, though it is an appositive, is necessary to understand the meaning of the sentence).
    Her book Kisses of an Enemy will be published next year. (Writer has more than one book, so the title, though it is an appositive, is necessary to understand the meaning.)

If you have any particular grammar areas you’d like to see me tackle next, leave a comment. Moderation is on so you won’t see it, but I’ll get it in my inbox.

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