Sunday, May 8, 2011

Comma sense, people

I see it every day (not "everyday" -- that's another post). Multiple times. Even on billboards and signs in large type. Example: Attention shoppers. Attention shoppers? I'm not shopping for attention; I'm here to buy toothpaste.

Do you see the problem? What I'm lamenting is what I'm not seeing: the comma necessary in direct address. When you write Hello, everybody; Welcome, visitors; or Thank you, Anne,  you need a comma before the name of the person or group you're addressing. (And if you're saying, "Shut up already, Anne" ... well, same rule.)

It won't always result in altered meaning, as in the example above. But it's still necessary.

And by the way, if you're inserting the addressee's name within a full sentence, you need two commas: "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." And while you may actually be saying that phrase to yourself right now, please take another look and note the two commas. (And if you don't really give a damn, why are you here?)

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