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Commas Surrounding Names or Titles: A Requirement or Not?

Updated: Jun 2, 2021


Use of punctuation can be perplexing. Of course, the average person may not be too careful about their use of punctuation, but someone with a keen eye for grammar can tell the difference in the meaning of the sentences when the appropriate punctuation marks aren’t used.


Placement of the comma in regard to names is one of the misunderstood ones. Most people make the mistake of placing a comma only before a name or title. However, a comma can also be placed both before and after a name or title, depending on the context.


Commas can be used with names in two ways:


1. A name can be placed between two commas in a sentence. In this case it is known as an appositive. An appositive is a noun or phrase that gives extra information about a noun or phrase in the same sentence.


Compare these two sentences:

My boss Rob is a workaholic.

My boss, Rob, is a workaholic.


In the first sentence there’s no comma and the name is an appositive noun. If the name is removed, it would still make sense. But in the second sentence the name is in between two commas. This gives extra information about who the boss is.


Another example is:

“Very well, Miss Moore,” he said.


If we remove the name, the sentence would be:

“Very well,” he said.


The first sentence shows the man is speaking to a woman named Miss Moore while in the second sentence the name is omitted. Although both sentences make sense, mentioning the woman’s name shows whom he’s talking thereby giving more information.


Such information placed between two commas is also known as non-restrictive clause. It can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence.


Consider the example:

Jack and his sister Karina walked into the store.