When referring to a title followed by the individual who holds that title, should I use a comma? For example, should I say:

At the end of a sentence "his boss, Michael." or "his boss Michael.

At the start of a sentence "The writer, Michael," or "The writer Michael"


Titles like this are appositives: a construction where one noun phrase identifies an adjacent. Your question on comma use is almost a duplicate of this one, but a little broader, so I'll try to answer it in full. I'll quote the same style guideline as the top answer there:

Commas are used to set off an appositive when the appositive can only refer to a specific item. (The Chicago Manual of Style, 5:21,123; 6:22-24). Examples:

Mary's son, Jesus, is thought by many to be the Messiah. [Mary had only one son]

Dostoevsky's book Crime and Punishment is the great books of all time. [Dostoevsky wrote more than one book]

Your sentences fall into the same two categories: presumably, Michael has only one boss, and there are multiple writers. Thus we would write

His boss, Michael, ...

The writer Michael...

  • Thank you for your elaborate explanation. I actually didn't know the rule concerning appositives--I always thought that they needed to be set off by commas, but it's interesting that the comma only needs to be included when there is only one item being referenced. – Paul NoCal Feb 23 '20 at 8:49

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