You are here:

General Writing and Grammar Help/RE: My close friend, John Lee,.....

Advertisement


Question
Dear Ted:

I'm getting back to you with the same subject because I'm confused by your reply.

You wrote the following:

And, you are correct.  His name is not essential and it can be placed within commas."

Then you wrote this:

If you use "close friend," you should use the commas.  Naming him is essential, because some people who know your other "close friends" may be confused.

My problem is that I'm the one who is confused. In my opinion, your first statement contradicts your second one. If something is placed within commas is not essential to the meaning of the sentence. Therefore, it can be omitted. What do you think?

Again, many, many thanks for your kind help.

Paolo

Answer
Dear Paolo:

If something is placed within commas is
not essential to the meaning of the sentence. Therefore, it can be omitted. What
do you think?

*** I was getting confused, too.

Let's use this example:

I have ONE brother, and his name is John.

My brother, John, is older than I am.

I put "John" is commas, because his name is non-essential.  The important thing is that my brother is older than I am.  Giving his name is not important.  When I write the sentence this way, I am telling the reader that I have ONLY ONE brother and he is older than I.  "John" is not important.

Here is the meaningful message of the sentence:  My brother is older than I am.

**************

I have TWO brothers, one named "John" and the other named "Bill."

My brother Bill is the oldest sibling I have.  I do not use the commas, because naming Bill is essential.  If I don't specify which brother is older, my sentence is not clear.

Another example:

I have a total of 20 brothers and sisters.  My brother Bill is the oldest of all of us.  I do not put Bill's name within commas, because his name is essential to the meaning of the sentence.  I need to differentiate between Bill [the oldest] and all the other children in my family.  If I put his name in commas, his name then becomes "additional information," but NOT "necessary information."

Ted  

General Writing and Grammar Help

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Ted Nesbitt

Expertise

I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

Experience

I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

Education/Credentials
B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.