Saturday, December 13, 2014

Comma Coma #2: Are You Appositive?

In my first blog, I speculate on reasons why graduate students seem unfamiliar with so many rules of style.  Another reason is that some of my students have been away from school for many years and working in places where correct writing was neither necessary nor valued.

The first thing to forget is the squiggle sprinkled throughout text known as the comma.

Should they remember the comma, they most remember the words of their Grade 3 teacher:  "Insert a comma where you pause."

This rule is not much help to stutterers or speakers unfamiliar with the normal cadence of a language.

Here's another comma omission:  Sometimes one noun or a noun phrase will rub up next to another noun to give the first noun more dimensions.  This is called the noun in apposition.  "Appositive" means to put next to - near, but we don't want it too close, so the noun in apposition is separated from the first noun by a comma.

My student's essay began with these sentences:

My friend, Max and I do a lot of hanging out together.

I live with my spouse Gretchen and our relationship is more complicated than my friendship with Max.   

How many commas are missing?

Know this:  If you find them, you will write better (dammit).

1.  My friend, Max, and I do a lot of hanging out.  [The word "together" seems redundant.]
2.  I live with my spouse, Gretchen, and our relationship is more complicated than my friendship with Max.

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