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A bright young thing

Good for articles, book and film reviews, the appositive phrase is a short description in parenthetic commas following a noun. It is often the most efficient and elegant way of adding to your sentence the role or key function of a character or object you are introducing. Here is an example from Vile Bodies:

Lottie Crump, proprietress of Shepheard’s Hotel, Dover Street, attended invariably by two Cairn terriers, is a happy reminder to us that the splendours of the Edwardian era were not entirely confined to Lady Anchorage or Mrs Blackwater.

What is the advantage of an appositive phrase over a relative clause? With the relative clause you need another main verb in the sentence, which is less elegant and can be confusing

Lottie Crump, who is proprietress of Shepheard’s Hotel, Dover Street,[…] is a happy reminder to us that […]

With the appositive phrase, there’s no need for another verb and it reads much smoother:

Lottie Crump, proprietress of Shepheard’s Hotel, Dover Street, […], is a happy reminder to us that […]

Like the relative clause above, the appositive phrase is ‘non-defining’ – that is, the sentence would make perfect sense without it (unlike say ‘The woman who is the proprietress of Shepheard’s hotel…’). Though this is the case for only some relative clauses (see explanation here), it applies to all apposite phrases because by their very definition they are an additional description.

There is no comma necessary, however, if such a description were to precede the noun as so:

Proprietress of Shepheard’s Hotel Lottie

All the information has been bundled into one phrase here – ‘Proprietress of Shepheard’s Hotel’ isn’t an alternative (or appositive) description of the noun, but a part of one big description. If you’re still confused about the distinction, however, there is a good explanation here.

Challenge

Add some appositive phrases to the following sentences.

J.K. Rowling brought out her first novel aimed at adults in 2012 to mixed reviews.

Robert Mugabe is among world leaders travelling to Rome for the inauguration of the new Pope.

The Lord of the Rings follows the quest of Frodo to transport and destroy a powerful ring in Mordor.

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