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  1. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    Common Appositives

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by dillseed, Apr 20, 2014.

    Which is punctuated correctly below—(1) or (2)?

    In each example, the writer has one wife, one son, and one daughter.

    Are the semicolons needed because commas are included, internally, within the subelements (and because they are nonrestrictive appositives)? Number one below looks like a punctuational nightmare, but it may be correct. Could we get away with the second example as being correct (with only 2 commas)?

    (1) My wife, Alice; my son, Jacob; and my daughter, Valerie, will be at the picnic.

    (2) My wife Alice, my son Jacob, and my daughter Valerie will be at the picnic.


    Thank you.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2014
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'd go with 2. It's simpler. I think 1 can be justified grammatically - there doesn't seem to me to be anything wrong with it - but it flows too slowly, in my opinion.

    I would definitely use the kind of punctuation in 1 with a sentence like

    Our tour was taking us to the following cities: London, England; Paris, France; Frankfurt, Germany; and Zurich, Switzerland.

    In this case, it's a list of cities, and they're always separated from the country they're in with a comma (at least in my experience).
     
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  3. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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  4. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    Thank you. Appreciated.
     
  5. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    So, technically, could we drop the comma here?

    “I have to speak with my wife, Jennifer.”

    If we wrote it "I have to speak with my wife, Jennifer," it would look as though "Jennifer" was a form of direct address—being used in the vocative case. Essentially, the sentence reads "Jennifer, I have to speak with my wife."

    Can we forgo the comma before "Jennifer" and write it thusly?

    I have to speak with my wife Jennifer.

    Is this acceptable, punctuation-wise?
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It looks okay to me. Once again, I like the pace and rhythm better without the comma. I tend not to use commas if I can get away with it. :)
     
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The rules for commas (for anything really) can be broken in fiction. So if you like how a particular sentence reads without a comma, then don't include a comma. In this case, I wouldn't use a comma, but I think using a comma is technically considered grammatically correct, though I'm not 100% sure (I'm embarrassed to admit that I've forgotten just about all the grammar stuff I learned in school).
     
  8. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    I would personally go with 2, especially if you are writing fiction. It just looks cleaner, and I'm sure many readers will get the message. There is nothing wrong with 1. In fact I have used the first structure before. However, I find that the use of a semi-colon for a list in fiction is best saved for longer chains. I don't think many readers would stumble over the punctuation in the first, but at @minstrel said, the stops they imply slow the pace.


    You can omit it, as it almost seems implicit. I think a case could be made for omitting the comma in this case, especially based on the previous question.

    I would include it because it offsets "Jennifer" as a parenthetical. Jennifer is not and important part of the sentence, it is nonessential information. Thus, I (and I suspect most readers) would expect to see a comma there, or at least wouldn't be bothered by it.

    I don't think the meaning would be mixed up unless the speaker is talking to some unnamed female, though my natural inclination is to assume that Jennifer is his wife because it makes the most sense syntactically. As you pointed out, if the speaker was talking to a Jennifer, it would be more common to put her name at the front. This is the way many people tend to do it in oral speech as well. Also, if your speaker says, "I have to speak with my wife, Jennifer," and he is speaking to Jennifer, I'm pretty sure there would be some previous indicator that Jennifer is who is talking to, precluding most of the confusion.

    Either way you go, just be consistent. If you go with form 2 from your OP, then I'd suggest omitting the comma in your second question (even if it pains me not to include it).

    (Admittedly, I might just be inclined to say "My wife Alice, my son Jacob, and my daughter Valerie will be at the picnic," and still write "I have to speak with my wife, Jennifer." Simply because of the pace of the second sentence. It naturally offsets the name when I read it aloud.) :p
     
  9. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    Thanks, everyone.

    Sincerely appreciated.
     
  10. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    I want to honor and respect the rules of this forum (that's why I'm posting a request for an answer in this thread).

    Can anyone tell me whether my examples in the "Numbers in Fiction... Quoted Dialogue" thread are written correctly.

    Thank you kindly.
     

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