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The Disappearance of the Vocative Comma

August 23, 2013
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And now for something completely different…

Welcome Students

The Oxford Comma is one thing. I support it and will for all time. But what about the disappearance of the ill-fated vocative comma?

When addressed to a person or group of people, a sentence that names said person(s) ought to have a comma in place like this:

Michael, take out the trash.

Hi, Betty.

Welcome, tourists!

But it seems to be going by the wayside. You’re hard-pressed to find, “Michael take out the trash” but “Hi Betty” and “Welcome tourists” are fairly ubiquitous. (And technically not correct.)

However, many say that conventions of grammar, usage, punctuation, etc. do and should follow how people actually speak, write, and use words.

So will the Vocative Comma go the way of the Oxford Comma?

Reader, I hope not.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 23, 2013 11:42 pm

    I feel like a terrible person for not knowing more about the vocative comma. However, I too am a strong proponent of the Oxford comma.

    • August 24, 2013 7:44 am

      Greg, you are not a terrible person.🙂 Glad we agree about the Oxford comma.

  2. Daniel L permalink
    February 19, 2016 11:13 am

    I support the vocative comma in cases like “I know, John” vs. “I know John”, but when people start there e-mail with “Hi, John, How are you today?” it sounds like they are stuttering. “Hi John” is unambiguously vocative without a comma, so why bother?

    • February 19, 2016 5:25 pm

      Thanks for the comment–I still bother in such a case because English doesn’t really have cases, and a vocative comma is as close as we get to a (case) marker… I suppose I like to see it there for the sake of consistency, but I hear what you are saying Daniel L.

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