11

This is a big issue between my husband and me. He says always put a comma after a name, I say only when a break is needed. Example:

A review of the complaint filed by Andrew, shows that Linnea, and John, did in fact violate state laws when they were covering up the crimes of officer Johns, and that Andrew, in fact, has a rightful claim against the Defendants.

11
  • 36
    It sounds like your husband is trying to apply the rule for direct address (i.e. set off the addressee's name with a comma) to all uses of a person's name, which is not correct.
    – Kevin
    Aug 28, 2022 at 19:01
  • 7
    A name for the rule Kevin refers to is "vocative comma". Searching with that term will find more advice about the rule.
    – Ergwun
    Aug 29, 2022 at 5:34
  • 4
    Don't you have any books at home? You'll only have to read a couple pages to figure out that this "rule" doesn't exist.
    – IMil
    Aug 29, 2022 at 13:23
  • 2
    @IMil possibly all their books are from several hundred years ago when commas were used more liberally, and to my eyes randomly. I've always pictured people back then with corsets and waistcoats so tight they need to catch their breath every three or four words.
    – CCTO
    Aug 29, 2022 at 14:03
  • 1
    It's inconsistent that in fact is not set off with commas in "did in fact violate" but is set off with commas in "Andrew, in fact, has".
    – Wyck
    Aug 29, 2022 at 14:10

2 Answers 2

35

It's easy to find examples where a comma would be totally wrong: "Michael said John was drunk" means something completely different from "Michael, said John, was drunk".

2
  • 5
    Or the classic example, which became the title of a book about just this sort of thing: Describing a panda: "eats shoots and leaves" which becomes "eats, shoots, and leaves". (Cover image showing a panda holding a gun and walking out of frame...) Aug 29, 2022 at 17:38
  • 2
    Taking the husband’s suggested rule literally, we’d have “Michael, said, John, was drunk,” which reads to me like you’re watching a damaged, stuttering video tape, and the commas barely mean anything at all. Definitely isn’t correct.
    – KRyan
    Aug 30, 2022 at 14:20
29

Proper nouns are, for punctuation purposes, exactly like common nouns. Since, therefore, you would write:

A review of the complaint filed by the shopkeeper shows that the secretary and the clerk did in fact violate state laws when they were covering up the crimes of the officer, and that the shopkeeper, in fact, has a rightful claim against the Defendants.

you would write the same lack of commas with names.

Note that "officer Johns/the officer" has a comma after it because it ends an independent clause, and the second "Andrew/the shopkeeper" does because it is followed by a parenthetical phrase.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.