Using commas in a lot of languages are indispensable, however in English language frequently commas are absolutely redundant because of word ordering. My native language frequently influences me to use commas before names. e.g.

  • Is it your letter, John?
  • Good morning, honey.
  • Dear, do you wanna to meet in evening?

and so on.

Is these commas incorrect, redundant, optional or necessary?

  • 1
    People tend to leave off these commas in the same way that many shortcuts are made these days. In formal writing, it is absolutely necessary, but it has become commonplace to omit them.
    – Neil
    Nov 22, 2017 at 11:33

2 Answers 2


Those commas are perfectly correct, and should be used, although many people forget to use them.

Grammatically, there are various ways of describing what’s going on. One helpful set of terms is essential vs. nonessential. When the identifier makes sense in the sentence by itself, then the name is nonessential and you use a comma before it. Otherwise, no comma. That explains an exception to the only-thing-in-the-world rule: when the words “a,” “an” or “some,” or a number, come before the description or identification of a name, use a comma.

A Bronx plumber, Stanley Ianella, bought the winning lottery ticket.

When an identifier describes a unique person or thing and is preceded by “the” or a possessive, use a comma:

Baseball’s home run leader, Barry Bonds, will be eligible for the Hall of Fame next year.

My son, John, is awesome. (If you have just one son.)

But withhold the comma if not unique:

My son John is awesome. (If you have more than one son.)

The artist David Hockney is a master of color.

The celebrated British artist David Hockney is a master of color.

And even:

The gay, bespectacled, celebrated British artist David Hockney is a master of color.

(Why are there commas after “gay” and “bespectacled” but not “celebrated”? Because “celebrated” and “British” are different sorts of adjectives. The sentence would not work if “and” were placed between them, or if their order were reversed.)

If nothing comes before the identification, don’t use a comma:

The defense team was led by the attorney Harold Cullen.


  • This is a great explanation. I am trying to master that rules which you wrote here. BTW, I checked your other answers for another questions and it seems that usually your answers are so perfect.
    – iwlpe
    Nov 23, 2017 at 9:26
  • Thanks! I'm enjoying helping people here, and in the process I am learning more about my own language!
    – ashleedawg
    Nov 23, 2017 at 14:46

I think the commas in your examples are grammatical. The intervening names serve to alert the person you are talking to to the ensuing information and can be removed from the sentence(not necessary to the main idea of the sentence). Thus it should be set off with commas.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .