The Artistry of Appositives

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One of my favorite strategies to teach writers is the effective use of appositives. I like to show kids how appositives, like prepositional phrases, can create a wonderful context for the sentence.

So, what’s wrong with adjectives? 

Usually, with younger writers, we might simply encourage the use of strong adjectives to be placed in front of nouns, and the adjectives work just fine. But in order to help your slightly older kids to elevate their writing, teach them the artistry of appositives. We don’t want students to think that adjectives are the only tool in their Parts of Speech Tool Chest. There are other ways to modify nouns and pronouns. To help build an appreciation for selecting just the right way to say something, appositives are a good go-to.

A positive what?!? 

Appositives are phrases that you set off with commas, and you usually position them just after the word you want described. The appositive is really just a renaming or modified version of the word it follows. Here is an example from one of the Mover and Shaker Sentence activities featured in Shurley English:

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In this case, we have the direct object noun, Jackson’s Market. Notice that I have set the appositive off with a comma just before the phrase and right after it. Then, by strategically placing the appositive just after Jackson’s Market, I have modified the direct object without listing simple adjectives in front of it. It adds a bit of zing to the sentence, don’t you think?

Give it a try.

When your young writing scholar has scraped the bottom of the adjective bucket, it’s time to refill the bucket with some appositives. You can help writers get used to this strategy by brainstorming some basic nouns and appositive phrases that do a good job of modifying them. Keep your list of nouns and appositives handy by posting a Matching Wall of Words, specially designed to help writers find just the right appositive phrases to go with the noun of their choice. Over time, the use of appositives will become second nature. So, get out there and practice the skill of writing with appositives.


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David Lutz

David, a former classroom teacher, administrator, and self-proclaimed grammar nut, considers the oddities of English vocabulary and grammar his playthings! He received his degrees in elementary education, teaching, and curriculum design from CMU in Fayette, MO, and the University of St. Mary, Leavenworth, KS, respectively. His career has been a colorful collage of experiences in education, ranging from Kindergarten to Adult education and parenting classes.


He and his wife, Marjorie, have been blessed with 30 years of marriage, three grown sons, a cherished daughter-in-law, and the smartest, cutest grandson on the planet! He’s worked for Shurley Instructional Materials, Inc., for over 11 years and loves to help students and their teachers learn to love language and language learning as much as he does.