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General Writing and Grammar Help/Comma usage with appositives

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Question
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.

Paolo

Answer
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.  

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Richard Johnson

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I can answer any question--usually the same day--on correct English grammar, usage, and (non-fiction) writing style, based on the American practice. All answers are explained, and I encourage follow-up.

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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.

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

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

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For many years a member of Mensa.

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