Updated October 10, 2022.
My husband Michael gets copies of my email. We are in business together, and he keeps track of what comes in when I am busy teaching business writing courses.
Last week Michael received a political email, a persuasive request with the subject line “Will You Commit, Lynn?”
He relaxed when he noticed the comma before my name. Without it, the message might have been distressing: Will You Commit Lynn? One serious interpretation of that question would be “Will you put Lynn in an institution for people with mental illness?” A less grave meaning would be “Will you assign Lynn to this project?”
But the comma told Michael he was reading a message addressed to me–not about me. The comma indicated “direct address.”
Omitting commas in direct address is the most common punctuation error I see. These sentences from recent emails suffer from it:
Thank you Lynn.
Many thanks Lynn.
Wonderful tips Lynn.
Thanks Ms. Gaertner-Johnston.
Thanks for the info Lynn.
Because the writers are addressing me, a comma should come before my name.
Will you commit, dear reader, to using a comma when you address your readers directly?
And if you want more punctuation related posts, check out our Punctuation Pointer section.
P.S. following this post, a reader sent me this gem below. I will leave it up to you to decipher its many comma transgressions.