Nouns of Address

Definition

Nouns of address (technically called vocatives, but also known as nominatives of address or nouns of direct address) identify the person or group being directly spoken to. Like interjections, they are grammatically unrelated to the rest of the sentence—that is, they don’t modify or affect any other part of it. Instead, they are used to let the listener or reader know who you are addressing, or to get that person’s attention. For example:
  • James, I need you to help me with the dishes.”
  • “Can I have some money, Mom?”
  • “This, class, is the video I was telling you about.”
  • Mr. President, I didn’t see you there.”
  • “Hey, guy in the red shirt, can you help me?”

Punctuation

Nouns of address are found in the initial, middle, or final position in a sentence. No matter where they occur, they are normally set apart from the rest of the sentence by one or two commas. If they occur in the initial position, they are followed by a comma. If they occur in the middle position, they are enclosed between two commas, and if they occur in the final position, they are preceded by a comma. For example:
  • James, I was wondering if you could help me with the dishes.”
  • “I was wondering, James, if you could help me with the dishes.”
  • “I was wondering if you could help me with the dishes, James.”
  • Class, this is the video I was telling you about.”
  • “This, class, is the video I was telling you about.”
  • “This is the video I was telling you about, class.”

Capitalization

Proper nouns

Proper nouns, such as the name or title of a person, are the most frequent nouns of address. These nouns are always capitalized, no matter where they appear in a sentence. If a professional title is used with the name, it is capitalized as well. For example:
  • “Can you help me, James?”
  • “Thank you, Mrs. Smith, for being here.”
  • “It’s so nice to meet you, Doctor Jenner.”
  • “Hey, Coach Frank, how are you doing today?”

Common nouns in place of titles

Common nouns can also be used as nouns of address. If the common noun is the title of a job or family member and is used in place of a person’s name, it should always be capitalized. For example:
  • “How are you doing, Coach?”
  • “I need your advice, Mr. President.”
  • "Can you come with me, Mom?”
  • “Pleased to meet you, Doctor.”
Compare the examples above to the following cases in which the same titles of jobs and family members are not used to address the person directly, and therefore are not capitalized:
  • “Give that football to the coach.”
  • “Was the president at the meeting?”
  • “Tell your mom to come with us.”
  • “Did you call the doctor yet?”

Terms of endearment

When a term of endearment is being used in place of a person’s name, we do not capitalize the word unless it begins the sentence. For example:
  • “Would you get me a glass of water, sweetie?”
  • “Thanks, pal, I appreciate your help.”
  • Love, please put away your clothes.”

Other common nouns

If they do not act as a professional or familial title, other common nouns should generally remain in lowercase, unless they occur as the first word of the sentence. For example:
  • “This, class, is the video I was telling you about.”
  • “Can you help me, guy in the red shirt?”
  • “Please stand up, boys and girls.”
  • Ladies and gentlemen, please remain seated for the duration of the performance.”
Quiz

1. Nouns of address occur in the ________.






2. Nouns of address are set apart by ________.





3. Which of the following sentences does not contain a noun of address?





4. Which of the following sentences is written incorrectly?





5. Which of the following sentences is written incorrectly?





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