I love good grammar, or, maybe I should say, I love grammar rules. All those commas, semi-commas, and dashes are there to make the reading of dead words on a dead page sound alive when read. Atleast in my writing.
Many, probably most, of our rules in life come from the past and are no longer really doing any work – or, heavy lifting (as I hear more and more at the end of the decade). At a dinner party, don't start eating until after the hostess comes from the time when making sure they weren't going to poison you was a bigger issue. Shaking hands showed you weren't carrying a knife.
But English is alive and most of the rules reflect the living language. And, I like to think, I know most of the rules well enough to know when I can break them. When in doubt, I can always refer to my Strunk and White, my The Deluxe Transitive Vampire, or my Wired Style Book. But I don't think I have ever heard of the rules on appositional phrases, or – for that matter – even knew they existed.
Running into Michael Tomasky's blog entry on appositional phrases is the kind of thing I find fascinating about the Web.
commas. Charlie Weis, the outgoing Notre Dame coach, will
receive…Otis, Tomasky's 19-year-old cat, likes to eat…SFMikey, the
loyal reader and commenter who longs for a shout-out, wrote…In each
of these cases, the words in the between the commas are the appositive.
One rule of thumb: It's a phrase you can always remove from the
sentence, along with its commas, and the sentence will still track