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Just one minor thing but so important

Okay, let’s talk for a moment about the comma. Not all about its many uses in punctuating sentences – gracious, that would take all night. Let’s just pick one aspect of commas and look at it a bit.

Lately, I’ve edited a couple of pieces in which the writers didn’t quite understand the way an address–the sort where one character addresses another, not a street address 🙂 — inside a sentence is punctuated. So I fixed a lot of sentences like these. I hasten to add that none of these sentences appear in the manuscripts I edited. I invented these “brilliant” bits all by myself.

“Waldo what do you think you’re doing?”

“Come over here Mike, and give me a hand.”

“I don’t know, Sally if I’d open that door.”

Each of these is incorrect. The mistake is easily fixed, though. Add a comma before and after the name of the person being addressed.

“Waldo, what do you think you’re doing?”

“Come over here, Mike, and give me a hand.”

“I don’t know, Sally, if I’d open that door.”

However, English being the tricksome beast that it is, don’t get tripped up by multiples.

“William, you and Thomas wash the dishes while Kimberly feeds the cat and dog.” Correct? Incorrect? All those names! Well, who is the speaker speaking to? She (I visualise this as a mother; I suppose because I am one and gave millions of orders like these.) is speaking only to William, so his is the only name set off with a comma.

“William, wash the dishes while you, Thomas, dry them. I want you to feed the cat and dog, Kimberly.” Perfectly dreadful sentences, honestly, but the commas are correct.

 

 

I wouldn’t really spend a blog post talking about this if I hadn’t seen errors recently. It’s not hard. If one character speaks to another one, add commas and stir. Smile

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