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Stop! Grammar Time!

Saw this in today’s paper:

Coeur d’Alene-based technology company, Rohinni, is under new leadership and is planning to relocate its headquarters to Liberty Lake in an effort to expand engineering capabilities.

The thing is, though, those commas don’t belong there—because Rohinni is not only a Coeur d’Alene-based technology company, it’s also a restrictive appositive.

Let’s review.

An appositive is a noun or pronoun placed next to another noun (in apposition) to explain or identify it. If the appositive is necessary for the reader to understand the writer’s meaning, it’s what’s called “restrictive” and doesn’t require commas; if the information it contains is supplemental, it’s “nonrestrictive” and does take commas.

For example, when I say “My friend Bill eats paste,” Bill is a restrictive appositive that identifies which friend I’m referring to. Because if I’d said “My friend eats paste,” well…that could be anybody, really. (Have you met my friends?)

But if I were to say “My wife, Kim, eats paste,” Kim is a nonrestrictive appositive because I presumably have only one wife. It’s supplemental information; “My wife eats paste” contains all you need to know. (N.B. My wife does not, in fact, eat paste.)

Back to the sentence we started with:

Coeur d’Alene-based technology company, Rohinni, is under new leadership and is planning to relocate its headquarters to Liberty Lake in an effort to expand engineering capabilities.

Since there are likely several technology companies operating in Coeur d’Alene, the inclusion of Rohinni is necessary for the reader to understand exactly which one the writer is referring to. It is therefore a restrictive appositive, and doesn’t require commas:

Coeur d’Alene-based technology company Rohinni is under new leadership and is planning to relocate its headquarters to Liberty Lake in an effort to expand engineering capabilities.

Part of the problem is that the writer is trying to communicate too much within a single sentence, and likely felt that the commas offered a necessary pause. But that’s not what commas are for. It’s why God created editors.



07.23.2021, 10:49am
by Kim Bragg


To confirm: yes, you only have one wife and no, I don’t eat paste.


07.23.2021, 11:08am
by Aaron Bragg


(1) As far as she knows, and (2) as far as I know.


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