The bride looked radiant, a fairy tale princess.

The bride looked radiant — fairy tale princess.

She'd known him all her life, a great friend.

She'd known him all her life — great friend.

On these types of structures the phrase won't tag on the end of the sentence without a determiner as is the case with most supplemental phrases. Without the determiner (a,the) you need a dash or a colon.

What is the determiner doing to the phrase so that it can take the comma compared to a phrase that hasn't and needs a em-dash or stronger punctuation?

  • I wouldn't say that any of those are fine. The first omits like and the second omits he is or he was. Further, I wouldn't say that the second is fine with a comma, either, since that would make it a comma splice. – Jason Bassford Dec 13 '18 at 5:29
  • 1
    I don't think the versions without the determiner work, whatever the punctuation. – Kate Bunting Dec 13 '18 at 9:22
  • this first one is a supplement and not a complete sentence (no verb) is it not. – bluebell1 Dec 14 '18 at 21:49
  • In both cases an understood phrase is elided. like in the first example, he was in the second. The versions with the comma are OK in informal contexts, the versions with the em-dash don't work for me at all. – Barmar Dec 17 '18 at 19:56

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