The Grammar Belle

Spiffing y'all up, one typo at a time

Bless Her Heart*

I am so sad for a friend of mine. Her husband recently posted on Facebook that his “wife Sally just ran her first 5K.” I’m so thrilled for her physical accomplishment, but I didn’t realize that her husband has more than one wife. They’re Catholic, as am I, and we don’t do that sort of sister wives thing . . .

What? He’s not a polygamist? He just doesn’t know the power of a pair of (missing) commas? Oh, thank goodness!

Corny, yes. But I am hoping it’ll help y’all remember to use your commas of apposition when they’re needed! Let’s take a quiz: Can you tell me what’s different about these two folks?

Friend A writes, “My sister Adrienne is a lovely girl.”
Friend B writes, “My sister, Adrienne, is a lovely girl.”

You’re right! Friend A has more than one sister; Friend B has only one sister. How do I know?? Those precious commas of apposition!

Another pop quiz. Another trick question.


See, when you set something off within a pair of commas, you are saying that that entire section of the sentence can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence or creating any confusion. If Friend A (who has many sisters) were to write “My sister is a lovely girl,” you are left wondering to which sister she is referring. If it’s not necessary to point out exactly about whom you’re writing, and you’re just adding the person’s name for some additional, interesting material, then set that sucker off in a pair of commas.

I certainly hope Sally can forgive her husband, what’s-his-name, for his perceived polygamy.

Thanks for stopping by, y’all. And don’t forget to send your questions, concerns, and dilemmas my way—grammar-related only, though. I don’t do marriage counseling or anything like that.

*A very, VERY convenient Southern saying. It has many uses, one of which is to convey actual sympathy/empathy. It’s also handy in that we don’t much like insulting folks. You know about those people who’ll just say it like it is, no matter what, and they don’t care if you’re offended or if you don’t like them or what you think one bit. Well, I’m not that person.

A Yankee might say, “Ohmygawd. She is so stinking stupid.” I was taught to express that same idea with “Bless her heart. She is just dumber than a stump.” Said with a drawl, it just seems much sweeter and less offensive.

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12 comments on “Bless Her Heart*

  1. sagewhisk
    October 16, 2012

    Grammarbelle, I am learning so much from you! Love all your posts!

    • The Grammar Belle
      October 16, 2012

      And I’m so excited to make your new soup recipe! We need a little fall weather first, though.

  2. addude13
    October 16, 2012

    And what of my beloved em dashes? What say you to using them instead of commas in the example given?

    • The Grammar Belle
      October 16, 2012

      You know I love me some em dashes! I tend to overuse them, in fact. Yes, you can use them instead of the commas. They’ll just give the reader a bit of a different feeling! Thanks for reading, Poppa Culture!

  3. MaryKathryn Kirkpatrick
    October 16, 2012

    Dear Brandy, I am ready to forward this little gem to a friend in need. Thank you, Grammar Belle! Love you, Mary Kathryn

    • The Grammar Belle
      October 16, 2012

      Thank ya so much, MK! Love you too. It was so good seeing you the other night!

  4. outlawmama
    October 16, 2012

    Oh this is really good. I didn’t know this one. Smarty pants.

  5. The Grammar Belle
    October 17, 2012

    “Smarty pants.” A grammar blogger’s No. 1 compliment! Thanks, Christie!!

  6. Laura
    October 19, 2012

    Grammar Belle, as we say in the north, you are wicked smaht.

    • The Grammar Belle
      October 22, 2012

      Ah, thanks so much, Yankee Laura! (That’ll be my new name for you. My mama gave EVERYONE nicknames, so I feel like I oughta carry on the tradition.) Stop by anytime!

  7. Laura
    October 19, 2012

    Make that North, as in the northeastern part of the great U. S. of A.

  8. Pingback: A Year of Grammar Goodies (With Bonus Pop Quiz) | The Grammar Belle

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This entry was posted on October 16, 2012 by in Punctuation, Southernisms.

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