You are here:

General Writing and Grammar Help/Comma usage with appositives


What do the following sentences imply?

a) My sister Ornella has a degree in law.

2) My sister, Ornella, has a degree in law.

Thank you.


A. My sister Ornella has a degree in law.
B. My sister, Ornella, has a degree in law.

A is using the appositive ("Ornella") in a restrictive sense. You have two or more sisters and the sentence conveys that this particular sister has a law degree. The absence of commas restricts the meaning to the one sister named. The sentence is not correct if you have just one sister. It would be correct, however, even if another sister also had a law degree.

B uses the appositive in a descriptive sense: the commas indicate that you are using Ornellas's name to describe the sister but not restrict the meaning of the word sister.  

General Writing and Grammar Help

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Richard Johnson


I specialize in grammar. I can however answer any question except homework questions--usually the same day--concerning English grammar, usage, or (non-fiction) writing style, on the basis of the American practice. All answers are explained, and I encourage follow-up.


I'm a retired editor and a lifelong student of this subject. My library includes a great many works to which I've referred through the years. I currently rely largely on the sixteenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style supplemented, where appropriate, by Long, The New College Grammar.

For over 30 years I edited the newsletter of my own organization, which had different names but was last known as

BA, Brooklyn College. Advanced studies in economics and political science.

Awards and Honors
For many years a member of Mensa.

©2017 All rights reserved.