Eroica’s Erotica, Episode 10: Appositives
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Set off with commas any clause or word that’s in apposition to a noun if omitting the phrase would not change the meaning:
Eroica reminded me of my sister, Eliza.
The name Eliza, in apposition to the noun sister, does not change the meaning of the sentence—it only adds extra information. Eliza is the name of one of the narrator’s sister. When a clause or added word contributes to but does not alter the meaning of a sentence, we call it nonrestrictive, (link) and we set it off with commas.
But what if we left the comma out?
Eroica reminded me of my sister Eliza.
Without the comma, the reader must assume that the name Eliza is vital to the sentence’s meaning. This might be true if the narrator had more than one sister. In this case, the word Eliza is still an appositive, but it’s a restrictive appositive.
A restrictive clause or word in apposition to the noun does not require a comma because omitting the word or clause changes the meaning.
Here are a few more sentences with nonrestrictive appositive clauses underlined, just to finish the story.
Eroica removed the book, Modern Erotica, from between us and said, “I’m nothing like your little sister.”
She lifted her fingers, still wet from my genitals, to her nose.
“You smell like roses, pink and sweet,” she said.
I kissed her then, and we played out the scene, the one that always got her off.
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