COMMAS FOR THE ADDRESSED PERSON'S NAME
The poor little comma suffers the most abuse of any punctuation mark. It has a number of functions, but all to do with making minor separations between items or phrases in a sentence. I have deliberately avoided the word ‘pause’ or ‘short pause’, because one favourite method that primary school teachers employed to get the idea of comma use through to young children was to say put one whenever you might pause to take a breath when reading a sentence aloud. The idea works some of the time and stuck with many recipients right into adulthood. Regrettably, ‘taking a breath’ isn’t what commas are about. They are to help make sense of sentences and, often, to avoid confusion and ambiguities.
For example: ‘You could ask Ken for help.’ This means you are telling some unnamed person to seek help from Ken.
However, ‘You could ask, Ken, for help.’ This means you are suggesting to Ken that he seeks help from either you or an unnamed person.
This introduces one of the most common requirements for a comma:
COMMA USE WHEN SOMEONE IS ADDESSED
It is essential that when a person is spoken to by name, that name must be cut off from the remainder of the sentence, whether it occurs at the start, end or in the middle.
1. Thus, at the start it looks like this:
‘Joan, Terry will call for you at eight.’ Here Joan is being spoken to. Without the comma it means something quite different.
‘Joan Terry will call for you at eight.’ Here, some unnamed person is being told that a lady called Joan Terry will call.
2. When the name occurs right at the end, the comma still goes in.
Eg. ‘Terry will call for you at eight, Joan.’
“We are all going by train this time, Bill.’
3. When the name appears somewhere inside the sentence, you must place a comma before and after the name.
4. Egs. ‘Just take a look at this photo, Annie, and tell me if you think it’s the man who hit you.’
‘Just take a look, Annie, at this photo and tell me if you think it’s the man who hit you.’
‘Just take a look at this photo and tell me, Annie, if you think it’s the man who hit you.’
5. All the instances of comma use for names of addressed people have to be applied to nicknames and terms of endearment.
Eg. ‘What do you say to that, Stinky?’
‘Darling, you know I love you.’
‘Just take a look at this photo, Sweetie, and tell me if you know the man.’
6. If you are in the habit of talking to animal and birds, the same rule applies.
Eg. ‘Fido, sit down!’
‘Get off my chair, Tiddles.’
‘Listen, Girls, either your produce eggs for breakfast or you become Sunday dinner.’
You might also be interested in these other common uses of the coma:
COMMAS TO ISOLATE NON-ESSENTIAL STARTING WORDS
COMMAS IN SERIES
COMMAS TO SEPARATE DEPENDENT CLAUSES