Are You Making this Common Mistake with Appositives?

An appositive is a modifier. It’s a noun or noun phrase that immediately follows another noun or noun phrase to further define it. You probably use appositives all the time without even realizing it. But are you punctuating them correctly?

Why am I devoting a blog to appositives? I’m so glad you asked!

Learning how to punctuate appositives—most often done with commas but sometimes with parentheses—isn’t difficult, but I see incorrect examples almost every day. The sad thing is that so many of this common appositive punctuation mistakes show up in Amazon book descriptions, websites, book reviews, and pretty much anywhere you find the written word.

Punctuating appositive nouns and phrases is easy once you understand the rules. Click To Tweet

So let’s review definitions, and then I’ll show you how easy it is to correctly punctuate whenever you use an appositive in your writing.

What Is an Appositive?

As a reminder, an appositive is a noun or noun phrase that provides additional information. Like other types of modifiers, an appositive can be essential (restrictive) or nonessential (nonrestrictive) to the sentence. Removing an essential modifier may cause confusion, but removing a nonessential one still leaves most of the meaning intact.

Essential: My cockatoo Snowflake attacked my computer.

Nonessential: My cockatoo, Snowflake, attacked my computer.

Snowflake’s handiwork the day she decided I was working too much.
Snowflake the Cockatoo

What’s the difference, and why does it matter?

If I had more than one cockatoo, I wouldn’t use a comma—I’d want to make it clear that I’m discussing Snowflake and not another bird. I’m specifically throwing “Snowflake” under the bus (she deserves it, don’t you think?). If I delete her name (the essential modifier), I remove the clue that tells you which bird was the culprit, so I could be referring to one of several birds.

The second example is the one I personally would use because I only have one cockatoo, and her name is Snowflake. If I delete the appositive (her name), which is a nonessential modifier, you still know my only pet cockatoo created some trouble. Continue reading “Are You Making this Common Mistake with Appositives?”

Sentence clauses and where to put the comma. With gratuitous nudity.

“Should I or shouldn’t I?” That’s the question most writers ask themselves about commas, and Eric Baker wrote one of the best explanations I’ve read to help you decide. Wish I’d written one that was half this much fun!

Sentence clauses and where to put the comma. With gratuitous nudity.


Sentence clauses and where to put the comma. With gratuitous nudity. #writetip #punctuation #amediting Click To Tweet

Do you have any idea how hard it is to think up an enticing blog post title when your topic is sentence clauses? That’s about as unsexy a thing as can be discussed. My other options were Full Frontal Commas and When Punctuation Marks Hook Up, but I ultimately decided “sentences clauses” and “comma” both belonged because the union of those two language elements is what we’re talking about today.

I’m willing to bet that when writers express worry about their punctuation skills, their chief grief is commas. Like, when to use one and where to put it (by the way, if you block out the rest of this post, you have to admit what I just wrote could be sexy). Today I shall discuss one aspect of comma use: when they are required to separate sentence clauses and when they are not.

The guidelines are pretty simple. If you have a dependent clause, you don’t need a comma, and if you have an independent clause, you do need a comma. Important note: Dependent and independent clauses are typically separated by “and” or “but.”

But sometimes, to even the most experienced writer, grammar talk sounds like bleeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhhh grldlugnk fzzznuh. Therefore, I shall provide examples.

Continue reading…

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