Thursday, August 07, 2008

Commas and Polygamy

Commas can keep you out of all sorts of trouble:
"American Idol" season 4 runner-up Bo Bice and his wife Caroline Fisher welcomed a baby boy on Tuesday, Aug. 5, reports

"Caroline Fisher" should be set off with commas here. Unless, of course, he has more than one wife, in which case she will be set off by having to share.

If here is only one of something you're identifying with further information--"my wife, Caroline,"--you need to set it off with commas. It's a non-restrictive modifier. In regular English, that means it's something that doesn't limit the meaning of the sentence because it's by definition limited. He only has one wife. Right?

If there's more than one of something--"the American Idol runner up Bo Bice"--you can't use commas to separate Bo from his antecedent. You're limiting the meaning.

There have been many American Idol runners up. Bo Bice isn't even the most famous American Idol runner up to be expecting a child right around now. In fact, we were hoping this was about the birth of the child fathered by American Idol runner up Clay Aiken, who conceived via artificial insemination (a fact we include only to demonstrate this whole comma thing one last time).

No comments: