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do you use a comma when telling/asking people/things? For example(s)

Do you want to go eat tomorrow, Nathan? Check me out, Nathan. Commas, people, commas! Just sent you a message, Nathan. Just sent you a text message, man!

I have been taking some journalism courses at my respective college, and I have become addicted to correct grammar, punctuation, and AP-style methods. I cannot stop analyzing correct, as well as, incorrect texts/writings in my daily life. I aim to live a correct-grammar life in everything I write. I also just discovered this site, and I love it. Thank you for reading!

marked as duplicate by Edwin Ashworth, tchrist, Janus Bahs Jacquet, choster, anongoodnurse Jan 31 '15 at 21:58

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  • 1
    As a general rule, you use a comma to separate the intended hearer's name from the rest of the sentence. "Let's eat, grandma!" vs "Let's eat grandma!" But, like all such general rules there are generally exceptions. – Hot Licks Jan 30 '15 at 22:36
  • 'I aim to live a correct-grammar life in everything I write.' But which version of grammar? – Edwin Ashworth Jan 30 '15 at 23:48

Yes, absolutely. It's a vocative construction: Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears! Some languages have special forms for the vocative, but we have to make do with intonation, as indicated by commas.

Wikipedia has a discussion of vocative: "Modern English lacks a formal (morphological) vocative case. English commonly uses the nominative case for vocative expressions, but sets them off from the rest of the sentences with pauses as interjections (rendered in writing as commas)." Vocative case

  • Notice that even Wikipedia talks about them as "pauses" instead of intonations. Sigh – John Lawler Feb 1 '15 at 16:39

I taught English composition for twelve years, and I've read about a dozen English handbooks. There is no comma rule for the vocative. In your first example, "Do you want to eat tomorrow, Nathan?" The comma is actually separating a non-essential appositive from the independent clause. In the third example, the appositive is in the middle of the sentence, so the appositive is set off by a comma on each side.

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