Writing in the Vocative Case

When names are addressed directly in writing, the practice is known as the vocative case.


Always separate an individual’s name from the rest of a sentence with a comma or commas when he or she is addressed directly. For example, the following sentences represent the vocative case:

  • I will see you later, Julia. (The speaker is addressing Julia. Therefore, Julia’s name is separated from the other part of the sentence with a comma.)
  • Cary, I have a gift for you. (Again, Cary is directly addressed. Therefore, her name is separated with a comma.)

Addressing Inanimate Objects or Animals

Besides humans, inanimate objects or animals can also be addressed directly; and thus be in the vocative case. The following examples represent this point:

  • Be a good dog and go fetch the ball, Waldo.
  • You are my favorite ring, you lovely gem.

Why Adding a Comma Is Important in this Instance

It is important to understand the vocative case as not doing so can lead to some confusion, if not a downright insult. You can see this point represented by the following examples:

  • Tell me more about that crazy woman. (In this example, the speaker wants to know more about a certain person.)
  • Tell me more about that, crazy woman. (By adding a comma, the speaker is directly addressing a person, referring to her as a crazy woman.)

Again, whenever you speak directly to a person, you always have to remember to use a comma or commas. Otherwise, the sentence takes on a new meaning. The following phrase underscores this rule:

  • “. . . and that was the final word spoken by the villain Paul (If Paul is being addressed, a comma should be added. Otherwise, the phrase infers that the villain was Paul.)

Whenever a person, object, or animal is directly addressed, do not forget the comma or commas.

Image Credit

Photographer: Aaron Burden


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