Appositive phrases, also called noun phrases, are another way to add information to a sentence.
Essentially, appositives are nouns with added descriptive words. For example:
The sinister-looking cat.
The man dressed in the blue raincoat.
The hammerhead shark with a jagged scar on its nose.
Think of appositives as subjects. There is no action because there is no verb. You only have a descriptive noun.
To write appositives, target nouns in your sentences that need (or could use) further description or explanation. For example:
Jim walked on the beach. (Nouns: Jim, Beach.)
For each noun targeted, think of appropriate synonyms or other nouns that could replace that word. For example, "Jim" could also be a boy, a figure, a surfer, or a loner. To create an appositive, add more descriptive words before or after the synonym chosen.
a small, frail boy with a hitch in his step
a solitary figure silhoutted by the setting sun
an experienced surfer searching for a spot to put-in
a depressed loner lost in thought
Now, place the appositive immediately AFTER the original noun:
Jim, a small, frail boy with a hitch in his step, walked on the beach.
Jim, a solitary figure silhoutted by the setting sun, walked on the beach.
Jim, an experienced surfer searching for a spot to put-in, walked on the beach.
Jim, a depressed loner lost in thought, walked on the beach.
You can add as many appositives to a sentence as desired:
Jim, a small, frail boy with a hitch in his step, walked on the beach, a narrow strip of yellow sand at the base of Mount Vesuvios.
Several appositives can also be linked together:
Sam, the freshman quarterback, a boy of renowned virtue and excellence, was elected class president.
SENTENCE COMBINING AND APPOSITIVES
Boring: Manuel traveled to Chile this summer. He is the son of immigrant parents.
Better: Manuel, the son of immigrant parents, traveled to Chile this summer.
Look for sentences with the words is and was as the main verbs. If a noun follows these verbs, then it probably can be used as an appositive and added to another sentence.
Boring: Alicia won the gold medal. She is one of the world's youngest Olympic competitors.
Better: Alicia, one of the world's youngest Olympic competitors, won the gold medal.
COMMAS AND APPOSITIVES
Most appositives add extra, additional information that is not necessary to a sentence. For this reason, we separate the appositives from the rest of the sentence with commas. Essentially, the commas say, "Hold on a second--here's something that you might want to know before we get back to the main idea."
However, sometimes appositives are necessary, meaning that what is said changes if the appositive would be removed. Consider:
My favorite film Star Wars will be shown at the campus theater next weekend.
Take "Star Wars" out of the sentence, and it is no longer clear which film is being talked about. The film title is necessary; therefore, no commas.
Most appositives without commas occur in similar situations, where the appositive limits or narrows the subject.
My cousin Vinny speaks Italian. (Take away Vinny, and you don't know which cousin you are talking about.)
My dog Smokey loves to hunt rabbits. (You might have more than one dog, so the dog's name becomes essential.)
My teacher Mrs. DeWitt is old and mean. (Take out the name and it is no longer clear which teacher you are talking about.)
Don't confuse essential or not essential with value. All appositives add information of value, but do you need to know this in order to get the main point?