Here we are with yet another lesson dealing with the comma. I think when you realize how many blog posts, articles, and Style Guides are dedicated to comma usage, you begin to understand why this little punctuation mark is such a bother.
Today, I want to talk about using commas with descriptive phrases.
Basically, there are two types of descriptive phrases – one is considered essential, and the other is non-essential. The difference between these two phrases comes down to the emphasis of what is being described, the noun serving as the subject of the sentence.
When the phrase is essential to the meaning (and often the identity) of the noun it belongs to, a bracket of commas is NOT appropriate.
The reason for this is because without the descriptive phrase, the noun isn’t complete.
Conversely, when the descriptive phrase is non-essential and isn’t needed to identify the noun, then the phrase is set off with commas.
Here are some examples:
In the sentence,
The man with the gray and black moustache is my husband.
(The descriptive phrase, ‘with the gray and black moustache,’ is how the husband is identified – therefor it is essential information, and NO commas are used.)
In this sentence,
My hubby, with the gray and black moustache, threw the ball for the dog.
(In this instance, the descriptive phrase, ‘with the gray and black moustache,’ is NON-essential because it is already clear that the subject of the sentence is ‘my hubby’ – therefore it is non-essential information, and commas are required to set it apart from the rest of the sentence.)
Next time, we will cover Commas with Introductory Words and Phrases.