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May 17, 2016

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Lisa Marie Mutchler

I am committed to those commas! I understand that those phrases tend to be spoken as a unit, but in writing, I prefer the comma. To me, it looks like something is missing without it.
I found this very intriguing: "If the phrase read and her husband David, it would suggest that she had more than one husband." For some reason, that logic seems backwards to me! Either way, I will continue to use the commas. :)

Paulwiggins

Choose a guide and stick to it. Eliminating those unnecessary captions will always strengthen lists and captions.

Nilima

Since quite usually one has only one husband or one wife, why not forget the commas? This should, of course, apply only to the husband or the wife, and not any other relation or person.

Terri

Based on the AP Stylebook 2015 example, one would assume that "they" have more than one daughter, correct?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Lisa Marie,

Regarding the logic of "her husband David" versus "her husband, David," the no-comma example is considered restrictive, or essential. That is, we need to know which husband.

The example with commas is nonrestrictive; it's extra, unnecessary information.

In cultures practicing monogamy, the comma use you prefer is always the logical choice. But "Gregg" and "Garner" see the rule as flexible.

Applying the commas is more complicated with siblings and other relatives. I have one brother, so I should write "my brother, Ed." If I wrote "my brother Ed," you might assume I have more than one brother. That's the confusion "Garner" noted.

Thanks for the opportunity to clarify! I hope I did.

Lynn

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Paulwiggins, choosing a guide and sticking to it is a good idea. I have preferred to pick and choose among the many style guides on my bookshelf.

Lynn

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Nilima,

I agree. And I have been following your idea, but inconsistently. For the reasons I mentioned above, however, I'm going to start being consistent and use "my husband, Michael."

Lynn

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Terri,

Yes, "their daughter Julie" suggests that they have more than one daughter.

Lynn

Levente Dobo

Hi, Lynn,
This is how I see it: if you look at what you write (say) as "NP+APPOSITIVE", the comma makes perfect sense, as it sets off an appositive. However, if you look at the same phrase as "TITLE+NAME", there is no need for the comma, as we wouldn't separate a title from the person it refers to (e.g.:*Professor, Smith; my husband Michael).
I also think that the above choice has an impact on the message. Is your focus on "my husband" (who is called Michael) or "Michael" (who is your husband)?
I hope you find this of interest.
LD

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Yes, an interesting idea! Thanks for sharing.

Lynn

Tequila George

I believe it is to be left to the intent of the writer. If husband is intended to be used as a noun, a comma is needed. If husband is a descriptive, an adjective, for the person then, a comma is not needed. Switching of nouns and pro-nouns later in the same writing would suggest (to me) that the comma would be desired, as it presents both as the same person.

Eg: US' President Trump. vs. US' President, Trump. If in each use within an article, you expect to call him President Trump, then no comma is needed. If you will want to interchange the pronoun for the name, then a comma is, in my humble opinion, better.

That being said, know that, I create my own writing style and maybe my own rules of English and sentence structure. :)

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

That's an interesting, intuitive approach.

Lynn

pag

I realize this is an old blog, but as a proofreader/editor for the past 25 years, I tend to stick to old-school rules as suggested by the first two examples you mentioned above. Another very important aspect of this issue is legal. While working for an attorney years ago, it was imperative to use serial and nonrestrictive commas, otherwise wills, etc. can be disputed. For example, "My estate is to be evenly split between my children, Kaylie, Alexandra and Gordon," or between my children, Kaylie, Alexandra, and Gordon." Without the serial comma, it could be read as half of the estate going to Kaylie and the other half being split between Alexandra and Gordon, not the estate being split exactly into thirds and distributed.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Excellent example, Phyllis. Thanks for sharing it.

Lynn

AndreaPT

I have a question-- in writing an essay about a family with emphasis on that family's child, I need to make a statement about a man's wife, identifying her by name. The man has been identified in the previous sentence :
"...said Bob's father, Ed. He and wife Cheryl took Bob to school..." Should there be two commas separating Cheryl or no comma-- or do I need to add the word "his" to wife?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Andrea,

I would definitely insert the word "his" before "wife." It's clearer and more professional.

You have a choice about the commas. Most style manuals recommend that you use them around "Cheryl," and I recommend their use too. However, some style guides feel they are not necessary with a sentence that flows easily like yours.

Lynn

Rory

I have always been confused about how to construct this when the name is possessive. For example:

My husband David's car...
My husband, David's, car...
My husband, David's car...

None of them seem quite right, but I have been opting for the first when an alternate structure is not available. Anyone have any input?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Rory,

According to "The Gregg Reference Manual" (Rule 641), both your first and third options are correct. The second one is not.

Lynn

Robert Solano

I greatly appreciate this article knowing that there are other writers that have struggled with the same thoughts.

I decided to go without commas for a silly reason...

“My wife, Angela, and I had a great weekend in Napa.”

This statement, in my opinion, isn’t clear if my wife is Angela or if Angela was a third person in a threesome.

Since I only have one wife, I think I will stick to considering ‘my wife’ as an official title without capitalization, similar to “Queen Elizabeth and I.”

“My wife Zaira and I.”

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Robert, that's an excellent example illustrating a wise choice to leave out the commas. Thank you!

Lynn

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