How do I address you?

How do you punctuate a sentence to make it clear who is being addressed? This is one of the most common errors I find in manuscripts. The answer is that when you’re writing a message to someone you need to separate the person’s name from the rest of the sentence using a comma. Otherwise your reader may misunderstand the meaning of your message, sometimes with unintentionally funny results. Take a look at these:

‘I’m going to clean up Justin.’

‘I’m going to clean up, Justin.’

‘Go get Fido.’

‘Go get, Fido.’

‘Have a look at that, officer.’

‘Have a look at that officer.’

‘I’m going to see Sam.’

‘I’m going to see, Sam.’

So whenever you address someone directly, separate the vocative from the rest of the sentence with commas.

‘Justin, I’m going to clean up.’

‘Justin, I’m going to see Sam.’

‘Have a look at that, Sam, Justin is cleaning up.’

So, having looked at those examples, which of these do you think is correct?

‘The boss called, Justin, but I took a message.’

‘The boss called Justin, but I took a message.’

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