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Does the dedication "To my beloved John" need a comma after "beloved"?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

It depends on how you want the dedication to read. There are two main options:

To my beloved, John

Here, beloved is a noun. This says that John is equivalent to your beloved. A fine point to this is that this implies that you have only one "beloved". If you happen to have multiple beloveds (or multiple Johns -- thank you, Kit), you can use beloved as an adjective by saying:

To my beloved John

This second option used beloved as a modifier of John. If you have multiple Johns, this can help differentiate between them. Maybe you have a "beloved John", "tall John", and "carpenter John".

Either option is equally correct; the choice depends on how you feel about John.

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Just don't say "comma" out loud when reading this to an audience unless he was an English teacher. – Randolf Richardson Jul 22 '11 at 3:38
"To my beloved John" also works if you have multiple Johns. – Kit Z. Fox Jul 22 '11 at 17:53
@Kit: Good point -- do you mind if I add that to my answer? – simchona Jul 22 '11 at 18:05

The answer would be clearer with a complete sentence, but it is an introductory clause, and therefore needs a comma after 'John', but not after 'beloved'. Here, 'beloved' is an adjective, not a noun synonomous with 'John'.

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Dedications aren't complete sentences, though. – simchona Jul 22 '11 at 3:01

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