Direct address occurs when you address a person directly, prior to sharing information with the individual. A direct address can be aimed at an individual person or a group of people. This technique requires the use of a noun of direct address, which can be a person's name or another noun that represents a person or group.
Direct address is a technique that makes it very clear who the intended receiver of a message is. It can be used in everyday conversation or in writing. The idea with a direct address is to clearly specify who the message is aimed at when the message is being delivered. That way, the target(s) of the message will be certain that the message is intended for them. Other people who may hear the message will be sure that it is not intended for them.
In order to use the direct address technique, you need to know what nouns of direct address are. These are words or phrases that refer to the person or group to whom the message is directed.
Nouns of direct address can be:
- a person's name (Steve, Mr. White, Lisa, Mrs. Costa)
- a person's nickname (Bubba, Honey, Sugar)
- a person's title (Mom, Dad, doctor, teacher)
- a second person pronoun or phrase with one (you, you all, hey you)
- a noun phrase (dear reader, ladies and gentlemen, members of the audience, boys and girls)
- a term for a group (students, classmates, coworkers)
What is the correct direct address comma usage? The answer lies with where the direct address falls in the sentence.
- When the direct address is at the beginning of a sentence, place the comma after the noun of direct address. (Dr. Smith, the pain in my leg is unbearable.)
- When the direct address is in the middle of a sentence, use commas before and after the noun of direct address. (Well certainly, Mother, I remember what you said.)
- When the direct address is at the end of a sentence, the comma should go before the noun of direct address. (I heard exactly what you said, John.)
Direct addresses are commonly used in persuasive communication. The idea is that you're more likely to convince a person to do something if you address them by name or title, or with a second person pronoun (you) rather than a first (I, we) or third person pronoun (one, someone).
- If you receive a fundraising letter, the goal of the letter will be to get you to donate money.
- The letter will be addressed to you by name and use your name throughout.
- The letter will indicate that you should donate, not that someone should donate.
Using direct addresses for purposes of persuasion isn't limited to fundraising. There are many types of persuasive writing. For example, it is used in marketing messages, persuasive speeches, and when trying to influence someone via personal letter or conversation.
Explore a few direct address persuasive technique examples.
- Dave, we are reaching out today to share how you can make a difference in the life of a shelter pet. We are sure that you, Dave, must want to help make sure that shelter pets get a second chance. That's why we're asking you to commit to donating $15 per month.
- Hey you! Yes, you there, in the laundry room! Are you tired of clothes that aren't truly clean after a wash cycle? Wouldn't you love it if your clothes smelled fresh and clean directly from the wash? You there, you really need the super-duper stackable washer from WHI Industries. It'll change your outlook on laundry!
- We know that you are a skilled member of the call center team, Daniel. That's why your manager has recommended you for the XYZ Company management training program. We're looking for ambitious team members like you, Daniel, to train to become the next generation of leaders.
- Mom, I know you said that I don't need any more toys, and I know how concerned you are that I focus on school. My teacher mentioned that I seem to be a hands-on learner. That's why I'm asking you for an erector set. It's not a toy, Mom. It's a tool to help me learn science skills. I know how much you want me to succeed.
- Doctor, I know you said that I shouldn't go to work for the next three weeks. Is there something you can prescribe or do so that I could be released to return sooner? I'll do anything you recommend. I'm up for a promotion that I really need. Doctor, I fear that I'll be overlooked if I'm not there. Will you help me return faster?
In drama, direct address occurs when a character (or a group of characters) speaks directly to the audience rather than speaking to another character or simply musing aloud. Any time a narrator says "Dear Reader" (or something similar), and then speaks to the audience, that is an example of direct narration. There are many examples of direct address in literature, as well as scripts for TV shows and screenplays for movies.
Discover a few direct address examples in drama:
- In Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, the author herself offers direct address narration to readers. She chimes in to provide readers with information that Jane herself does not share.
- In The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, the book's narrator and the author both provide direct address commentary to the audience throughout the story.
- Oedipus Rex and other Greek tragedies included direct address by way of the audience. In ancient Greek theater, it was very common for chorus members to speak directly to the audience.
- The 2020 Netflix drama Bridgerton features a narrator who is never seen, yet provides direct address narration to viewers throughout the series.
- In the television series Gossip Girl, the title character is an unseen narrator who offers direct address to viewers. She signs off each episode by saying "XO, XO, Gossip Girl."
It's important to properly use commas before, around or after a direct address in a sentence. Review the examples below. Identify the direct address, then decide where the commas should be placed.
Please note that each item may have more than one direct address. Find all direct address examples and add commas as needed for proper punctuation. Check your answers against the key below once you have completed the practice activity.
- Stuart I need you to lock up the store at the end of your shift tonight. Is that something you can handle Stuart?
- I am sure Chandra that you will agree that this dress is perfect for the homecoming dance.
- Teacher I have a question. Will you explain number 10?
- But Dad I don't understand why I can't go with you. Did I do something wrong Dad?
- Students it's very important that you pay close attention to the rules for the standardized test.
- Dear readers our protagonist is about to go through a unique experience.
- You out there you should be prepared for a love story of epic proportions. Our hero and heroine are in for a big surprise.
- Will you pass the sugar Honey for my tea?
Check your work against the correct answers below.
- Stuart, I need you to lock up the store at the end of your shift tonight. Is that something you can handle, Stuart?
- I am sure, Chandra, that you will agree that this dress is perfect for the homecoming dance.
- Teacher, I have a question. Will you explain number 10?
- But, Dad, I don't understand why I can't go with you. Did I do something wrong, Dad?
- Students, it's very important that you pay close attention to the rules for the standardized test.
- Dear readers, our protagonist is about to go through a unique experience.
- You out there, you should be prepared for a love story of epic proportions. Our hero and heroine are in for a big surprise.
- Will you pass the sugar, Honey, for my tea?
Now that you know more about direct address, you're ready to explore other kinds of narration in writing. Start by reviewing examples of the three main types of narration in literature.