One Mother, One Father, One Sister, One Brother
No, this isn’t a religious piece or about family matters. This is about a certain comma…
That is, when we write:
My mother, Suzanne,
My husband, George,
we need commas.
Why? Well, generally, we have only one mother or one husband. Though, of course, this particular person might have more than one mother or one husband, for some reason having to do with social mores or… I can’t guess.
But when we have one of someone named in a relationship, we need a pair of commas.
My mother, Suzanne, cooked roast beef last night.
My husband, George, went bowling with the guys.
The same would be true of any relationship, and not just family relationships.
My boss, Steven, asked me to redo the report.
If, however, we have more than one of same—no commas.
My brother Eddie took the kids for a walk.
But if Eddie is special:
My oldest brother, Eddie, took the kids for a walk.
Definitely we don’t use a comma if we have more than one of a type.
My friend Argone returned to his home country.
Or, again, if the person (or whatever) is noted as special, yes, commas:
My Turkish friend, Argone, returned to Turkey.
My brown and white cat, Frieda, has been fighting with my other cats.
What if we don’t know how many others might be around?
Larry’s brother, James, went with him to the circus. I don’t know if Larry has other siblings, but James is the only one Larry has mentioned.
Just another reason we use commas—a rule that puzzles many people.
If you’re confused about this or other comma rules, you can download my style guide, The Naked Writer, at Amazon for your Kindle.
Or take a class with me at Writer’s Digest University.
Or see how I punctuate in one of my novels, such as Question Woman & Howling Sky or Strings (a middle grade fantasy adventure) or The Heroine’s Journey (a young adult fantasy).