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    #1

    Commas before and after names

    Someone commented to me:
    -You have a tendency not to put a comma before names. Sometimes it's good, especially in quick speech and quick phrases, but usually you're supposed to put commas in front of names.
    I’ve considered in general considered names parenthetical elements, but, unless I’m mistake, there are times when it’s not needed, such as:

    "My boyfriend Tobias called me today."

    In that case we can put commas in before and after “Tobias” but it’s not necessary because the phrase can be considered one unit, but if we reword it:

    "Tobias, my boyfriend, called me today."

    In this second example the sentence makes sense without the title “my boyfriend” so we treat it as a parenthetical element and the commas are necessary.

    So am I correct, and are there other examples when commas before and after names are not required?

  1. Casiopea's Avatar

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    #2

    Re: Commas before and after names

    1. My boyfriend, Tobias, called me today.
    2. My boyfriend Tobias called me today.

    In cases where two syntactic units (i.e. "My boyfriend" and "Tobias") share the same syntactic function (e.g. that of Subject), the are generally placed in apposition with commas (,...,).

    1. My boyfriend, Tobias, called me today.

    If, however, the commas are left out, the first unit in the sequence takes on the function of a modifier. That is, it describes the second unit:

    2a. My boyfriend Tobias called me today.
    => What kind of Tobias? The boyfriend kind.

    much like,

    2b. My big Tobias called me today.

    Leaving in the commas serves to help the reader pick up that there are two subjects juxtaposed. Leaving out the commas has the reader glancing back to pick out the subject. Note, nouns can function as adjectives, so noun+noun sequences are read as one unit (i.e. adjective+noun) whereas noun, noun,... sequences are read as separate units. Commas are helpful, and so they should be left in; but, if it's poetic license or style you're after, I'd italicize the second noun, like this,

    My boyfriend Tobias called me.

    All the best,

    All the best,

  2. RonBee's Avatar
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    #3
    Good explanation, Cas!

    :D

    (You are now a member of the 800 Club.
    :wink: )

    :)

  3. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Commas before and after names

    Quote Originally Posted by hopechest
    Someone commented to me:
    -You have a tendency not to put a comma before names. Sometimes it's good, especially in quick speech and quick phrases, but usually you're supposed to put commas in front of names.
    I’ve considered in general considered names parenthetical elements, but, unless I’m mistake, there are times when it’s not needed, such as:

    "My boyfriend Tobias called me today."

    In that case we can put commas in before and after “Tobias” but it’s not necessary because the phrase can be considered one unit, but if we reword it:

    "Tobias, my boyfriend, called me today."

    In this second example the sentence makes sense without the title “my boyfriend” so we treat it as a parenthetical element and the commas are necessary.

    So am I correct, and are there other examples when commas before and after names are not required?
    In my opinion, it is actually more correct to leave the commas out in your example. This is preferred when the appositive is intimately related to the other noun.

    This is from Webster Commnet:

    Appositives are almost always treated as parenthetical elements.

    Calhoun's ambition, to become a goalie in professional soccer, is within his reach.
    Eleanor, his wife of thirty years, suddenly decided to open her own business.

    Sometimes the appositive and the word it identifies are so closely related that the comma can be omitted, as in "His wife Eleanor suddenly decided to open her own business." We could argue that the name "Eleanor" is not essential to the meaning of the sentence (assuming he has only one wife), and that would suggest that we can put commas both before and after the name (and that would also be correct), but "his wife" and "Eleanor" are so close that we can regard the entire phrase as one unit and leave out the commas. With the phrase turned around, however, we have a more definite parenthical element and the commas are necessary: "Eleanor, his wife, suddenly decided to open her own business." Consider, also, the difference between "College President Ira Rubenzahl voted to rescind the withdrawal policy" (in which we need the name "Ira Rubenzahl" or the sentence doesn't make sense) and "Ira Rubenzahl, the college president, voted to rescind the withdrawal policy" (in which the sentence makes sense without his title, the appositive, and we treat the appositive as a parenthetical element, with a pair of commas).

    http://webster.commnet.edu/grammar/commas_big.htm

  4. RonBee's Avatar
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    #5
    Good explanation, Mike!

    :wink:

  5. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #6
    Quote Originally Posted by RonBee
    Good explanation, Mike!

    :wink:
    Webster Commnet is very good. :wink:


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    #7

    Re: Commas before and after names

    What about if I need to convey (er, whassitcalled-) "possession"?

    E.g:

    It is my son, Richard's, birthday
    Or
    It is my son's, Richard's, birthday
    (or other permutations?)

    Thanks - any help would be great!

  6. engee30's Avatar
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    #8

    Smile Re: Commas before and after names

    Quote Originally Posted by greenmichie09 View Post
    What about if I need to convey (er, whassitcalled-) "possession"?

    E.g:

    It is my son, Richard's, birthday
    Or
    It is my son's, Richard's, birthday
    (or other permutations?)

    Thanks - any help would be great!

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