Comma – the two difficult meanings
1. Remove without changing – use commas.
Some parts of a sentence can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence. These parts should always be “bracketed” by commas.
To remember this:
Remove part of a comma and you get “coma”. Someone in a coma doesn’t do anything.
Commas are used before and after extra information in a sentence. If the extra information is included at the end of a sentence, the final comma is replaced with a full stop.
Timmy who loves Superman is excited about the upcoming movie.
Remove “who loves Superman” to leave:
Timmy is excited about the upcoming movie.
The fundamental meaning hasn’t changed, so use commas:
Timmy, who loves Superman, is excited about the upcoming movie.
They will be providing accommodation for Mary a young lady from Leeds.
Remove “a young lady from Leeds”:
They will be providing accommodation for Mary.
The fundamental meaning hasn’t changed, so use a comma and, as the extra information is at the end, finish with a full stop:
They will be providing accommodation for Mary, a young lady from Leeds.
2. When a person is being addressed – add a comma
When addressing someone directly, their name must be separated from the rest of the sentence with a comma.
Put a comma before (and sometimes after) the name when they are being addressed.
When the nurse put a dressing (addressing) on the coma woman’s head, she had to fill in a form, with commas before and after the patient’s name.
Look at the difference adding or removing commas makes to these two sentences:
I don’t know, David
I don’t know David
In the first sentence, the speaker or writer is saying there’s something they don’t know, and telling David as much.
The second sentence is a statement that the speaker or writer doesn’t know David.
Besides, the comma used when addressing people can save lives:
1. See how important a comma is:
KILL BILL KILL, BILL
Someone to kill Bill Bill to kill someone
2. Tracy, put your hand down. (Tracy must be separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma).
3. Where do you think you are going, you little devil? (Someone is being addressed as “you little devil” and a comma is required).
4. Sure, Sue, let’s go. (As Sue is being addressed in the middle of the sentence, a comma must be used before and after the name).
These tricky commas before and after names are called vocative commas.
The vocalist (vocative) comma addressed the audience at the jazz club.
Vocative commas – where a person is being addressed.