Don't Cannibalize Grandma, Invite Her - Writing Personal Address : WAKE Editing Articles and Advice
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Don't Cannibalize Grandma, Invite Her - Writing Personal Address

by Weston Kincade on 11/27/13

In this section, I am not referring to when you write down an address. The personal address I will be covering is in reference to the dialogue you write in a short story or manuscript. If improperly punctuated, it can have disastrous consequences for your characters.


What is personal address?

A personal address is when a line of dialogue uses a pronoun, name, or nickname of the character being spoken to. When you are writing a line of dialogue such as, “Robert, don’t touch that!” it doesn’t have to be elaborate, but punctuating your personal addresses properly can prevent reader confusion.


Punctuation Rule for Personal Address

When using a personal address, always remember that the name, nickname, or pronoun of the person being addressed must be set off with one or more commas. If it is at the beginning or end of the sentence, one comma should be placed within the sentence either before or after the name. For example:

“You’d best get moving, Courtney.”


“Boy, don’t get on my bad side.”

However, if the name occurs in the middle of the sentence, two commas will be needed to set it off on either side, like in this example:

“Just because you’re dating both of us, Trevor, doesn’t mean the rules change on Valentine ’s Day.”


Potential Problems in Incorrect Personal Address

A missing comma can change the meaning and course of events within your story. One example that illustrates just how drastic this problem can be is below. See if you can figure out the difference in meaning between the two following sentences:

A: “Let’s go eat Grandma.”


B: “Let’s go eat, Grandma.”


If you haven’t figured it out yet, A is happily promoting cannibalism of Grandma. Because the comma is missing in the personal address, it isn’t a comment intended for Grandma, but is instead a comment said aloud, inviting others to join the speaker in the cannibalistic family meal.

Sentence B is a properly punctuated personal address. Here, instead of promoting cannibalism of the speaker’s grandmother, the speaker is addressing her Grandmother, inviting her to come eat with her.

I think we can all agree that this demonstrates how one comma can drastically change the meaning of a sentence. So, be sure your personal addresses are punctuated properly. If you have further questions, feel free to comment.

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