Volunteer, Lucy has set out to arrange a charity run.

Jenny and her partner, Steven would instead be attached as potential owners.

Could you use two commas here instead of one ? What is the difference in meaning with one comma or two?

Could this use of commas be at the writers discretion or should these examples always have commas. I don't see how the meaning of the sentences are changed dramatically with or without them ?

I can see this usage needing a comma: Jenny and her only partner, Steven.

But I'd be inclined to write: Jenny and her partner Steven would be attached as potential owners.

Volunteer Lucy has set out to arrange a charity run.

2 Answers 2


Whenever you're adding extra information, it should be set off by commas. In this case, your example would need two commas.

Jenny and her partner, Steven, would instead be attached as potential owners.

The basic sentence is "Jenny and her partner would instead be attached as potential owners." Because "Steven" is extra information, something just being added to clarify (like this clause), it must be set off from the rest of the sentence by commas.

In your first case, you're also missing a determiner (article, etc.). But it would also require two commas. That is:

The volunteer, Lucy, has set out to arrange a charity run.

Depending on the context, "the" could be replaced by "Our", etc.

Here's the Chicago Style Guide on the subject. https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/data/faq/topics/Commas/faq0005.html

The waters are muddied a bit by the AP style guide which states that a comma should not be used for a single-word appositive, so these commas may be optional, depending on your style guide, but the Chicago/Oxford style of setting names off with commas in non-restrictive appositives is, in my experience, far more common, and adds a great deal of clarity (as discussed in the link, above).

In summary, I would recommend following the Chicago/Oxford style, even if there may be some style guides that disagree.

  • Hi mate, I used the links you gave me to give an answer. The Chicago Style Manual says not to use a comma when the appositive is a single word, that's why I described ", Steve," as incorrect according to the Chicago Style Manual.
    – Zebrafish
    Aug 17, 2018 at 4:47
  • Again, sorry, I meant to say the AP style guide, not Chicago Style Manual. Which means I don't know what the Chicago Style Manual says.
    – Zebrafish
    Aug 17, 2018 at 4:57
  • The Oxford guide seems to use "non-defining" in place of "non-restrictive", I think it's implying "David Cameron" is a non-restrictive appositive, maybe because there's only one prime minister? In that case that particular Oxford section is irrelevant to the Steve case, "Steve" being a restrictive appositive.
    – Zebrafish
    Aug 17, 2018 at 5:10
  • "Non-Defining" and "Non-Restrictive" are identical terminology. I've actually seen textbooks where both terms are used at different times. It's just a matter of preference.
    – Drazex
    Aug 17, 2018 at 5:13
  • So then it looks like the Oxford example of David Cameron isn't related to Steve, as David Cameron looks like a non-restrictive appositive and Steve seems to be a restrictive appositive. I'd better revise my answer slightly. Either way, from that PDF the Oxford style guide doesn't say what to do with restrictive appositives.
    – Zebrafish
    Aug 17, 2018 at 5:16

Having just discussed this topic with a user, I can provide a bit of information.

The pdf based on the Oxford style guide says this:

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Style guide pdf

The AP style guidel says:

When to use a comma:

To separate a nonrestrictive appositive from the rest of the sentence.

  • Raymond Turner, a biologist, described the species.

When not to use a comma:
Before or after a one-word appositive.

  • The GABAA receptor agonist muscimol did not influence the response of WDR neurons in normal or allodynic animals.

The appositive in the last example is "muscimol", which is restrictive as it identifies "The GABAA receptor".

This means that the Oxford style guide and the AP style guide give opposing prescriptions.

Another style guide I found here says:

If an appositive is non-restrictive—that is, if it doesn’t contain essential information for identifying the noun that it follows—it is off-set by commas. In the following example, the appositive a doctor is helpful, but does not necessarily identify the preceding noun.

  • My cousin, a doctor, is going to join the Peace Corps.

If an appositive is restrictive—that is, if it contains essential inform ation for identifying the noun that it follows—it does not require any added punctuation. In the following example, the appositive David identifies the noun that it follows:

  • My cousin David is going to join the Peace Corps.

Note, the AP style guide seems to prohibit ", Steve," because it's a one-word appositive, not because it's restrictive or non-restrictive.

On the example of David Cameron as the appositive of prime minister, I assume it's taken that David Cameron is non-restrictive as there is only one prime minister. In the same way, I think "Steve" is a non-restrictive appositive because we take it that Jenny has one partner.

Given this information, and if we ignore the AP style guide which prohibits single word appositives from being "set off" by commas, then surrounding "Steve" with commas would probably be the best thing to do.

  • Interesting, it's strange that the Chicago manual of style disagrees, though you can add the AP style guide to those that require a comma for non-restrictive appositives (like Oxford).
    – Drazex
    Aug 17, 2018 at 4:53
  • Though as a note, the other style guide you mentioned does not support omitting commas. Rather, in that case it's referring to a restrictive appositive. In that case, it's not just that "my cousin" is doing something, but rather "David, who is my cousin" is doing something. David is more important, which is why it's labeled as restrictive in the style guide.
    – Drazex
    Aug 17, 2018 at 4:54
  • @Drazex No, hang on, I was wrong, that link you gave me is the AP style guide, not the Chicago Style Manual, I've corrected my answer. I jumped the gun and assumed it was the Chicago Style Manual. That means I have no idea what the Chicago Style Manual says about this, maybe you could check, I don't know where to see it.
    – Zebrafish
    Aug 17, 2018 at 4:54
  • Interestingly, I just looked up the Chicago style guide in light of that, and it actually agrees with Oxford. Here's a good link from their FAQ: chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/data/faq/topics/Commas/…
    – Drazex
    Aug 17, 2018 at 4:58
  • @Drazex I see. And the AP style guide prohibits it because "Steve" is a one word appositive? This is weird.
    – Zebrafish
    Aug 17, 2018 at 5:01

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