The Job Title Post

It was almost a month ago when I threatened to post the correct way of introducing a person with a job title. The stupid silly grammatical mistakes were driving me to an eyelid twitch that day.

I don’t understand why so many educated Americans have so very much difficulty speaking the language properly. Or even typing it properly, since spoken language is, by definition, less formal than written language.

But enough of that. I must cure the world of half-baked parenthetical phrases!

A parenthetical phrase is an aside, a brief thought tangentially related to the main sentence after which the speaker/writer returns to the main thought. It is something that you could set off with parentheses (hence the name), or with commas if it’s not quite as much of an aside.

For example, when referring to Paris, you need to make sure people know which one you’re talking about. You could do it like this: “In Paris (the one in Texas, not the one in France), rodeo is considered an art form as well as a sport.” Or you could do it like this: “Residents of Paris, Texas, consider rodeo an art form as well as a sport.”

Under absolutely no circumstances is this correct: “Residents of Paris, Texas consider rodeo an art form and a sport.” Why? Well, why does your web page throw up if you leave off a closing tag? You’re leaving code swinging in the breeze. There’s a reason C# and HTML are called languages, Dude. And it works exactly the same way in the English language.

Now on to the really hard part. Job titles, when placed before a person’s name, are not necessarily parenthetical phrases. Job titles, when placed after a person’s name, are always, ALWAYS (in case you didn’t hear me the first time) parenthetical phrases.

Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs died last week. (Not a parenthetical phrase).

Steve Jobs, Apple CEO until August 2011, died last week. (Always a parenthetical phrase, even more so with the other information in it.)

Then you have the less-clear-cut cases. Talking about your sister, if you have more than one, might give the following:

My sister Marcia said hi. (“sister” is a sort of job title)

My sister, Marcia, said hi. (“Marcia” as a clarifier)

My sister (Marcia, the perfect one, not Cindy, the cute one) said to tell you hi. (Parenthetical phrases within a parenthetical phrase! Bwah-hah-hah-hah-hah. Wait. Did I type that out loud?)

Mastery of the parenthetical phrase will also provide a considerable amount of comma mastery, because parenthetical phrases provide nearly half of incorrect comma usage in my daily bad grammar experience.

Here’s an example of stacked parenthetical phrases, correctly punctuated:
Visionary Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who resigned in August due to failing health, succumbed to a neuroendocrine tumor, a rare form of pancreatic cancer, October 5, 2011.

Every single one of those commas is grammatically necessary. And if the sentence didn’t end at “2011,” there would need to be another comma after it, because the year is a parenthetical phrase in a date, as in “October 5 (of this year)” — exactly the same way that the state or country is a parenthetical phrase in a location.

See, wasn’t that easy?

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