Archive for July 29th, 2009

My Pet Peeve: Missing Commas after Appositives

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

I don’t know how theological this post looks, but if Martin Luther was right (“If you want to change the world, pick up your pen”), it’s actually quite theological.

A growing number of writers and/or editors, even those producing academic works, apparently do not know that a comma is necessary both before and after an appositive—a phrase that explains the preceding word or phrase (in bold below):

Correct: John, a professional theologian, has no idea what he is talking about. (BTW, I have no particular “John” in mind.)

Incorrect: John, a professional theologian has no idea what he is talking about. (I have no particular “John” in mind.

I am seeing this error now in virtually everything I read. What’s going on?

(This grammatical error has replaced the comma splice as my pet peeve. The comma splice is the misuse of a comma to connect two independent clauses that ought to be separated by a period or semi-colon, connected by a conjunction, or converted into one independent and one dependent clause.)