Of all the punctuation errors I saw this year, the most prevalent offender was this one:
Happy holidays Lynn!
Sorry to use my name so often, but the error involves direct address, that is, writers addressing the reader directly (in my case, Lynn). That use requires a comma, as in these examples:
Happy holidays, Lynn!
If you don't want to be guilty of making the commonest punctuation error of 2008, just insert a comma whenever you use your reader's name in a sentence. (Yes, the examples above are sentences.) Here are more examples:
Thanks for your help, Ruth.
It was a pleasure to meet you, Sandhya.
Dr. Watts, your husband stopped by.
Microsoft's grammar and spelling checker does not catch these errors, but you can, using your human flexible intelligence. Just use a comma to set off the reader's name. Or use two commas if the reader's name comes in the middle of the sentence:
Thank you, Nikki, for purchasing our latest guide.
I'm writing to you, Grace, to apologize for my error.
As I am writing this blog post, a cc'd email just landed in my inbox. It says:
Thanks for your call last week Michael, saying that you received payment.
Did you recognize the error? Yes, you guessed it. The sentence needs a comma before Michael's name.
You can avoid that comma error. Reader, I know you can.