Appositive: A Positive Tool for Your Writing

Appositive: A Positive Tool for Your Writing

Forgive the little play on words, but this blog is about using appositives.

Give your writing more life by including appositives in your repertoire. Don’t be afraid of terms like appositives, either.  They are nothing to fear!

Appositives can be useful in combining short sentences to make them more interesting and to make your writing less choppy.

Also, using appositives allows you to give less important information a less powerful structure, leaving your strongest point to reign.

Of course, there are times when your sentence would be more powerful without an appositive, so you must take all of these factors into consideration.

The other advantage is that you can incorporate a wider variety of sentences by using appositive on occasion.

Remember that variety is the spice of life!

So spice up your writing by including this tool in your writing toolbox.

What exactly is an appositive?

An appositive is a noun or pronoun along with its modifiers (noun phrase) that further explains or identifies another noun or pronoun.  You might want to think of the appositive as giving more detail to the main noun in your sentence or elaborating on your focus noun.

In most cases, appositives provide additional information.

Let’s look at some examples.  The appositives are in red and the nouns they explain or identify are in green.

  1. Eleanor’s friend Bethany is one of the nicest girls you could ever meet.
  2. My sister’s car, a sporty fluorescent green Mazda, can be seen from miles away!

You will notice in the first example that there are no commas around the appositive.  When an appositive is essential to the meaning of the sentence, you do not use commas.

In many cases, however, the appositive is providing additional information that is not necessary to the essential meaning.

In these cases, use commas around the appositive when it is within the sentence. 

DogIf the appositive comes before the main clause or after it, you would need only one comma.

  1. A beautiful collie, Trevor was our fastest dog.
  2. The hotel room was infested with bugs, giant cockroaches!


Here are a couple of examples showing how you can combine shorter sentences by using an appositive.

  1. Mark supported the new investment proposal. Mark is the president of Sequoia Products International.

    Mark, president of Sequoia Products International, supported the new investment proposal.
  2. The Nile is the longest river in the world.  It travels through many countries including Egypt, Kenya, and Ethiopia

    The Nile, the longest river in the world, travels through Egypt, Kenya, and Ethiopia.

As mentioned earlier, in many cases the appositive provides extra information or detail. If you can read your sentence without the appositive and not lose the core meaning, then it should have a comma or commas.

Usually, a sentence can be read without the appositive and not lose meaning.  This can be a challenge for some writers or students because everything might seem important.


  1. The movie Amadeus won for best picture at the Academy Awards. (The appositive, in this case, defines the noun.  It tells which movie. If we extract “Amadeus” we lose essential information.)
  2. The bookshelf, a heavy monstrosity, was moved into the downstairs den. (In this example, the       fact that the bookshelf was heavy is not the primary point. The appositive comments on the noun, but it does not define it.)

Don’t stress out about the use of appositives.  Write as you would normally and then have a peek to see if there are some sentences that would benefit from additional information that could be provided with an appositive.

Also, have a look to see if some short sentences could be combined by using an appositive. This is especially helpful when one of the sentences is not particularly important by itself but only adds a little colour or commentary on the noun.

You don’t want to overuse this tool. Use appositives occasionally rather than as a primary sentence structure.

Also, don’t forget to read your work aloud. This provides you with an opportunity to truly hear how your writing flows – or doesn’t, giving you additional insight and occasion to improve.

In the meantime, have fun writing!

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