One thing that seems to trip peo­ple up with com­mas is how to use them with names.

For exam­ple, which of these is cor­rect:

  • My daugh­ter Jane just bought an island.
  • My daugh­ter, Jane, just bought an island.

Well, actu­al­ly, both could be cor­rect. It depends on the sit­u­a­tion.

The first exam­ple would be cor­rect if the speak­er has more than one daugh­ter. The sec­ond exam­ple would be cor­rect if the speak­er has only one daugh­ter.

In the sec­ond exam­ple, we use the com­mas to set off Jane as, effec­tive­ly, a non­re­stric­tive clause. Because the speak­er has only one daugh­ter, includ­ing the name pro­vides no addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion on who they are speak­ing about.

Here are some more exam­ples, a bit more obvi­ous, I hope:

  • My boss, Jen­nifer Smith, just gave me a bonus.
  • I vis­it­ed my home­town, Regi­na, this week­end.
  • I mar­ried my spouse, Peter, two sum­mers ago.

So, basi­cal­ly, use com­mas if the name is for some­thing or some­one who is unique and omit them if they’re not unique.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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