Grammar as Rhetoric and Style
An appositive is a noun or noun phrase that tells the reader something about a nearby noun or pronoun. In each sentence below, the appositive is underlined. The italics shows the noun or pronoun that the appositive details.
It turned out that one of the top students, Denny Davies, had learned of this rule.
Kennedy, a wiry fifty-nine-year-old who has a stern buzz cut, was in 1997 the principal of Sarasota High School.
In 1981, two professors . . . began following the lives of eighty-one high-school valedictorians—forty-six women and thirty-five men from Illinois.
Japanese people have to make many of the big decisions of their lives—whom to marry, what company to join—without detailed information.
We were given plenty of instruction about the specifics of writing: owrd choice, description, style.
When my cousin Kazumi studied ikebana, she was disillusioned by the unfair judgments her teachers made every year.
PUNCTUATION and APPOSITIVES
The last example given does not use punctuation to set off the appositive from the rest of the sentence, but the others do. Here is why: If the sentence can be understood without the appositive, the writer uses punctuation to set off the appositive. If the sentence cannot be understood without the appositive, the writer does NOT set off the appositive with punctuation marks. In the first example given, the name of the top student is a minor detail, so Margaret Talbot sets off the appositive with commas. In the final sentence, Kyoko Mori has several cousins; it is essential that she tell the reader which cousin she is describing , so she does not punctuate the appositive.
If your appositive needs punctuation, you can set off the appositive in one of three ways. First, you can use one or two comas.
The principal of Sarasota High School in 1997 was Daniel Kennedy, a wiry fifty-nine-year-old who has a stern buzz cut.
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