Now that we’re down to later-order concerns, examining our work at the detail level, I thought we might talk some more about punctuation.
We’ve already covered the serial comma, also known as the Oxford comma. Let’s cover yet another comma: the direct address comma.
The direct address comma will be review for many readers, but it’s a fun one to offer as a refresher.
Friends, we cannot neglect this comma or leave it out of our stable of punctuation. With it, we save lives. Without it, the unthinkable can happen.
What do you mean, Ann?
This comma offers clarity in its own way. And you can lock in its purpose is with the now infamous phrase:
The comma after the word “eat” is the direct address comma.
With the comma, I’m directly addressing Grandpa, issuing an invitation for Grandpa to join us for dinner.
Without the comma, Grandpa is dinner.
Some people have been advised to read their work aloud and wherever they pause is a good place to add a comma. This helps a little, but sometimes we don’t pause when we say things. I don’t think I’d naturally pause when calling out to Grandpa to let him know the table is set. I think I’d just say it quickly and my ear would tell me no comma is necessary: “Let’s eat Grandpa!”
In print, though, it is needed. Obviously, we will get context clues. The sentences preceding and following that sentence will help us understand that this is not a story about cannibalism.
But to avoid giggles and possible confusion—or horror—it’s best to include the direct address comma whenever and wherever it’s needed.
A quick review:
If the name of the person you’re addressing launches the sentence, the comma follows the name:
Nancy, bring your computer tonight so we can work on our book together.
When the name falls in the middle of the sentence, surround the name with commas:
If you insist on writing that memoir, Sam, at least change my name and hair color.
And if the name falls at the end of the sentence, you need one comma preceding it:
I would love to write a review on iTunes for you, Ann.
Just joking! Although if you have time, I really would love your positive review on iTunes so others can find this podcast.
How about this example, instead:
I hope your book launch is a huge success, Deidra.
So, friends, that’s a quick reminder of how the direct address comma can avoid the unthinkable. Use it—you might just save a life.
To listen to the full episode, click on the podcast player above or use subscription options below.
- Ep 94: Grammar Matters: Why Concern Ourselves with Commas?
- Ep 96: When You Really Need Next-Level Edits (next-level edits, lower-order concerns)
- How to Write a Review in iTunes
- Higher-Order Concerns (HOCs) and Lower-Order Concerns (HOCs) (Purdue Online Writing Lab – OWL)
- All podcast episodes
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