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Appositives and the comma conundrum

by on
in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

Plenty of people find themselves wondering if they’re using commas correctly, or worse, unknowingly using them incorrectly.

No need to fear, though. “Grammar Girl” Mignon Fogarty has some grammar reminders to help you become more comma-savvy.

  • A comma is not the visual equivalent of a pause. It’s a common myth that you should place a comma on the page everywhere you would pause when speaking.
  • Appositives are important. Appo­­­­sitives name or rename the noun they follow. For example, consider this sentence: “The bush, an azalea, is in bloom.” “An azalea” is an appositive in this case.
  • Appositives can be restrictive or nonrestrictive. Restrictive appositives do not require commas, but nonrestrictive appositives do require them.
  • A restrictive appositive is one where the appositive changes the meaning of the noun it follows. For example, if I have two dogs, but I am only talking about one of them: “I’m taking my dog Cindy to the park.”
  • A nonrestrictive appositive is one where the appositive doesn’t change the meaning of the noun it follows. For example, if I only have one dog and I am discussing the same scenario above: “I’m taking my dog, Cindy, to the park.”

— Adapted from “Where Do I Use Commas?” Mignon Fogarty, Quick and Dirty Tips, Grammar Girl blog.

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