Are you talking to me??

Posted: July 27, 2013 in Grammar nazi, Writing
Tags: , , , ,

I’m going to go a little Grammar nazi on you on this Saturday morning, but only a little, I promise.  It’s just a matter of one or two commas to correct something very often done incorrectly or, rather, not done at all.

If you address someone directly, the name needs to be separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma (or two, if the name is in the middle of the sentence.)

An example:

Joey, please pass the dessert…or, at the other end…Stop playing with your food, Alicia.

If the person’s name is in the middle of the phrase, you need an extra comma:

I think, Juanita, that it’s much too late to go out tonight.

If you use a term of endearment or another term that could have a name substituted for it, you need to do the same thing.

For example:

Sir, you are a cad!

You, sir, are a cad!

Are you cold, my dear?

Call 911, somebody.

However, if you simply use someone’s name in a sentence without directly addressing them, this rule doesn’t apply.  You would properly say, “Mom is going to the store to get Henry some medicine.”  But if you said, “Go to the story, Henry, and get Mom some medicine,” you need to bring out the commas.

I hope this clears things up a bit, my friends.  The next time you comment on a post and use the person’s name, you might say, for example:

Janet, that’s one of the most helpful posts I’ve ever read.

OR

When I think of the perfect blogger, Janet, I think of you.

OR

What a fabulous photo, Janet!

🙂

Have a wonderful weekend, dear reader!

Comments
  1. Dear Janet,
    What a good point you make about the the use of the beloved comma. And Janet, I am sure many thousands of your blogging friends will reply in the affirmative about this post.
    We all need a reminder from time to time, Janet, about the value of the comma and where to stick it!
    Enjoy your weekend. Mine is half over already.

  2. annesquared says:

    I appreciate a well placed grammar reminder – aways. Thanks!

  3. Dear Janet,

    Always nice to read a word from my favorite grammar Nazi. So “Throw mama from the train.” No comma, right? Thank you, Janet, for this informative blog. I can’t promise to always place my commas correctly,,,, though. One of the best, arguments for an,,, editor.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    • Dear Rochelle,

      You are correct. No commas in “Throw mama from the train” although “Mama” rather than “mama”, since it’s similar to a name. However, “Throw your mama from the train” is correct. 🙂 Editors do have their places, no matter where you might like to consign them occasionally!

      janet

  4. Ahhh, now I know why the bank-guy was son unfriendly – my mom forgot the comma as she called him a cad. Thanks!!!

  5. billgncs says:

    Janet, when I think of wonderful photos, I think of you, Janet. 🙂

  6. viveka says:

    … not an expert on the English language – but I know there should be a comma when using a persons name, I think it’s the same in all languages at least the European. On the other hand everything has changed about writing and reading, the schools are not that concerned anymore.
    And with all texting and sms …. our languages will change anyhow.

  7. dmmacilroy says:

    Dear, Janet,

    Now, will you, please, do one about the word too, too?

    (You are the nicest grammar Nazi I know.)

    Aloha,

    Doug

    • Ahh, Doug, you don’t need the comma between Dear and Janet. I should have mentioned that. But you might also be taking the mickey. I’ve thought about “too”, too and it might appear in a future grammar nazi post.

      Good to see you,

      janet

  8. Dear,(sic) Janet, you are the perfect comma-tator.

    Except this NEO-Nazi wants to correct your writing NOW!

    “Mom is going to the store to get Henry some medicine.” But if you said, “Go to the story, Henry, get Mom some medicine,” you need to bring out the commas.

    should read:

    “Mom is going to the store to get Henry some medicine.” But if you said, “Go to the store (not story), Henry. Get Mom some medicine,” you need to bring out the commas.

    or:

    “Mom is going to the store to get Henry some medicine.” But if you said, “Go to the store (not story), Henry, and get Mom some medicine,” you need to bring out the commas.

    But here’s an even greater question. Can you write that paragraph as:

    “Mom is going to the store to get Henry some medicine.” But if you said “Go to the store (not story), Henry, and get Mom some medicine”, you need to bring out the commas.

    You will note that there is no comma after “said” because the quoted phrase is not what an actual person said, it is only a noted phrase; and the coma, it seems to me (but what do I know?), can actually go after the quoted material because the “you need to bring out the commas” is the conditional of the part of the sentence. The comma should go after the quote, and not inside of it.

    If you wrote:

    “Mom is going to the store to get Henry some medicine.” But if you said Mom said, “Go to the story, Henry, and get Mom some medicine,” you need to bring out the commas.

    The comma would go inside the quote.

    Your thoughts, or rebuttal, or truth, or Nazi needles?

    Randy

    • Truth be told, Randy, I can’t even read all this without my head exploding. I can’t decide whether you’re serious or just a comma-n-tater. Please advise soonest. I’d probably have to look this one up and my guess is that only about 152 people even would notice. And surely this could all be written much more clearly, Randy, so we wouldn’t say, “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!”

      janet

    • Randy, when I go back to my post (so as not to go comma-pletely mad), I see what you’re asking and you may be right, that the comma would go outside the quotes.

      janet

  9. Juliann says:

    Commas can make all the difference, can’t they? My husband has a shirt that shares that sentiment. It reads:
    Let’s eat Grandma.
    Let’s eat, Grandma.

    Commas save lives.

    It’s his favorite shirt. 🙂

  10. totsymae1011 says:

    I would say, “Henry, go to the store and get mom some milk,” to eliminate commas. Too many commas interrupts the flow of a sentence.

  11. Tom says:

    I would only throw Nazis from a train, Janet!

    • I don’t capitalize the “n” just so there’s no confusion. The real ones were, and are, bad guys. However, the grammar nazi is only bad on bad grammar/punctuation/etc.

      janet

  12. xpat92 says:

    Hi Janet,
    I juggle two languages in my brain, so I know that I will make grammar errors. I am very grateful for Spellcheck! But, I know that I must also do my bit.
    Thanks for reminding us all.

    • There are so many people on WordPress who speak not only their language, but also English, and maybe others as well. Kudos to them (and you!) I wish I did. But not really much chance to practice in the States, although in some places you might think they speak a different language. 🙂

      janet

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