commas with direct address

Direct address involves the use of a person’s name or title to address a remark or a question directly to that person.

Not every use of a person’s name is a case of direct address. Often we use someone’s name to speak about that person rather than directly to him or her. For example, if you say, “Alison went to the concert,” you are talking about Alison, not to her.

But suppose you say, “Alison, how did you like the concert?” Then you are talking directly to Alison, and you are using her name to get her attention and to show that the question is meant for her. This use of Alison’s name to speak directly to her is an example of direct address.

Comma use with direct address

When using direct address in writing, you use a comma to separate the person’s name from the rest of the sentence.

  • Halynka, I hope you made perogies for the potluck!

Location of the name

The name used in direct address can appear at the beginning, at the end or in the middle of the sentence. (When it is in the middle, it has a comma before and after it, as in the third example below.)

  • Claudio, I heard you made ricotta dumplings for supper.
  • Show me the dress you bought, Samina.
  • Tell me, Carl, how do you like your new job?

Titles in place of names

Finally, direct address doesn’t need to involve a name. A title can be used in place of a name, as in the following examples:

  • Excuse me, sir, you dropped something.
  • Listen up, girls and boys!
  • Ladies and gentlemen, the play is about to begin.

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