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Sally (the mayors daughter) donated to the Salvation Army yesterday.

or

Sally, the mayors daughter, donated to the Salvation Army yesterday.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Beware that the one with the brackets is an incorrect way of "saying" (typing) a sentence.

There are 2 options here. Option 1:

Sally the mayor's daughter donated to the Salvation Army yesterday.

In this situation, "the mayor's daughter" part defines exactly which Sally you are talking about. Therefore it's implied that there is more than one Sally and you are specifying the correct one.

Option 2:

Sally, the mayor's daughter, donated to the Salvation Army yesterday.

In this situation, "the mayor's daughter" part simply adds an additional info about Sally, which isn't required for the sentence to work, because there is only one Sally, or the specific one is already specified by any previous info in the text.

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@Cerberus: The comma distinction certainly does apply as RiMMER says. Consider Wales, where if Jones the butcher donated, we don't know whether Jones the miner did the same. –  FumbleFingers Oct 9 '11 at 2:30
    
@Fumble: Well, okay, perhaps I was too hasty. I'd put that under special circumstances, if you're really comparing different girls named Sally. Then it becomes almost a title (like the Lady Isobel) and indeed there should be no commas. I was just not very happy with the fact that the comma-less example was given first, though the one with commas should be far more common. I still think the omission of commas should be considered the exception to the rule that apposition is normally marked by commas, but I suppose Rimmer isn't arguing against that. I will retract my earlier comment. –  Cerberus Oct 9 '11 at 3:08
    
@Cerberus: I can see how it's potentially confusing to cover the atypical case first - but RiMMER nicely puts me back on track by bolding exactly which, so that's no biggie. And I find it more elegant to see the plain, unadorned version before the punctuated one. –  FumbleFingers Oct 9 '11 at 3:34
    
@Fumble: Right, I've already given him my vote. –  Cerberus Oct 9 '11 at 5:19
    
Thank you a lot, guys! I'm glad pros like you agree with what I have to say about the problem. –  RiMMER Oct 9 '11 at 12:17

Generally you use commas in formal English. Programmers like to use parentheses (or even nested parentheses) but they are special.

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I agree. This is an apposition, and the commas should be the standard option. Use brackets only in special cases, where "the mayor's daughter" wouldn't normally fit in the sentence. Use no commas or brackets at all only when it is a fixed expression; normally the commas are required. –  Cerberus Oct 9 '11 at 0:39

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