Commas with Appositives

February 25th, 2021 in Grammar by April Michelle Davis 0

According to The Chicago Manual of Style, “An appositive noun is one that immediately follows another noun or noun phrase in order to define or further identify it.”

So, when do we separate an appositive with commas? When the noun preceding the appositive provides sufficient identification, separate the appositive with commas When an appositive is essential to the meaning, don’t use commas.

Examples

Bob Smith, our pastor, was born in Virginia.
Explanation: “Our pastor” is an appositive of the proper noun “Bob Smith.” “Our pastor” is between commas because “Bob Smith” is a precise identifier.

Our pastor, Bob Smith, was born in Virginia.
Explanation: “Our pastor” is still a relatively precise identifier so “Bob Smith” is not considered essential.

Editor April Michelle Davis will attend the meeting.
Explanation: “April Michelle Davis” is necessary to help identify, so no commas are used; “editor” is not a precise identifier.

April Michelle Davis, editor, will attend the meeting.
Explanation: “April Michelle Davis” is a precise identifier so the appositive, editor, is between commas.

The boy who received the award is my son.
Explanation: “The boy” is not a precise identifier, so no commas are used.

My son, who received an award, will attend the state spelling bee.
Explanation: “My son” is a relatively precise identifier.

 

Try It!

Directions: In the following sentences, place the appositives that are not necessary to the meaning of the sentences in commas.

  1. Sara Jane my friend is an interesting person.
    2. My friend Sara Jane is an interesting person.
    3. President Barack Obama wears expensive suits.
    4. Barack Obama president wears expensive suits.
    5. My sister Olivia was born last year.

Answers:

  1. Sara Jane, my friend, is an interesting person.
    2. My friend, Sara Jane, is an interesting person. (This sentence should not have commas if it is unclear which friend is being discussed.)
    3. President Barack Obama wears expensive suits.
    4. Barack Obama, president, wears expensive suits.
    5. My sister, Olivia, was born last year. (This sentence should not have commas if there is more than one sister.)