An appositive is a noun or a pronoun that renames another noun or pronoun. Appositives are placed directly after the noun or pronoun they identify. For example:
Some appositives are essential to the meaning of the sentence; others are not. Be sure to use commas carefully to establish meaning with essential and nonessential appositives. Otherwise your sentences will not make sense, as these examples show:
An appositive is a noun or pronoun that renames another noun or pronoun.
Confusing: Do you know my friend Bill?
Is Bill the friend or is the speaker talking to Bill?
Clear: Do you know my friend, Bill?
Appositive phrases are nouns or pronouns with modifiers. Appositive phrases provide additional information and description to the sentence. As with solitary appositives, appositive phrases are placed near the noun or pronoun they describe. For example:
Appositives are great stylistic devices because they allow you to eliminate unnecessary words and put more information in one sentence. They can also help you …
Appositive phrases are nouns or pronouns with modifiers. In grammar lingo, nonessential appositives are called “nonrestrictive.”
Here's an example:
Two sentences: Phineas T. Barnum was a great American showman. Barnum was near death in 1891 when a New York newspaper asked if he'd like to have his obituary published while he could still read it.
One sentence: Phineas T. Barnum, a great American showman, was near death in 1891 when a New York newspaper asked if he'd like to have his obituary published while he could still read it.
Don't set off essential appositives with commas.
Appositives, as with other parts of a sentence, can be compound. To create a compound appositive, connect the appositives with a correlative conjunction: and, but, or, for, so, nor, and yet.
As with appositives, appositive phrases come in two varieties: essential and nonessential. Don't set off essential appositives with commas, but be sure to set off nonessential appositives with commas.
Essential appositive: The famous British mystery writer Agatha Christie disappeared in 1924 and was missing for 10 days.
Nonessential appositive: Agatha Christie, the famous British mystery writer, disappeared in 1924 and was missing for 10 days.
One of the most common writing errors concerns misuse of commas with appositives and appositive phrases. Writers sometimes set off essential appositives with commas, but neglect those poor nonessential ones. You would never do that, would you? To make sure you're not guilty of that comma abuse, let's take a minute to practice, shall we? Add commas as needed to each of the following sentences.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style © 2003 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.