Speaking TO a person
In written conversation, identify the person (or penguin) spoken TO by setting off their name with commas.
Commas identify the person being addressed.
In normal conversation, people often identify the person they are talking TO. The name is explanatory, letting everyone know which specific person is being addressed. As explanatory, it should be set off with commas.
When speaking about a person, only use a comma for another grammatical reason.
Do not use commas if the person is being spoken ABOUT.
The key to this use of commas is to compare these two sentences:
- (To) Let’s eat, Grandma.
- (Grandma has not yet come to the table, so a grandchild is sent to invite her to join the others.)
- (About) Let’s eat Grandma.
- (The Big Bad Wolf has been joined by the Bigger Badder Wolf.)
Obviously, we don’t want to eat Grandma (unless we’re the Big Bad Wolf), so put the comma before “Grandma.”