Punctuation: Commas, Part XIX—Names

Often names—either of people or of things—are accompanied by suffixes or other extra information that may or may not need to be set off by commas.

It used to be that generational name suffixes like Jr. and Sr. were set off by commas. This is no longer necessary:

John Jr. is the son of John.

If commas are used, however, they should appear both before and after the suffix:

John, Jr., is the son of John.

Never use commas with generational suffixes III, IV, etc.:

If John Jr. has a son named John, he will be John III.

Likewise, commas are no longer necessary to set off elements such as Inc., Ltd., etc.:

Readers are eager to catch a glimpse of the new ereader from Apple Inc.

If commas are used, however, they should appear both before and after the element:

Readers are eager to catch a glimpse of the new ereader from Apple, Inc.

Do, however, use commas to set off a person’s title if it follows his or her name:

Mehmet Oz, MD, has segued from medicine to television.

Finally, personal names are sometimes followed by the person’s place of residence. Whether you should use commas to set off this information depends on whether it is necessary to understanding the meaning of the sentence. If it’s extra, parenthetical information, use commas; if it’s essential information, don’t:

Stephanie Herseth, of Houghton, is my home state of South Dakota’s only U.S. Congressperson.

The Herseths of South Dakota have been involved in politics since her grandfather’s generation.

Do you have a question about the comma? Let me know, and I’ll include it in a future installment of Mots Justes’ ongoing series.

The Mots Justes Series on Commas

Part I—To Serialize or Not to Serialize

Part II—Independent Thinking

Part III—Co-dependents

Part IV—Making Introductions

Part V—Interjections

Part VI—Parentheticals

Part VII—It’s All Relative

Part VIII—Adjectives

Part IX—Contrast

Part X—Adjectival Phrases and Appositives

Part XI—In Other Words

Part XII—Making the Transition

Part XIII—Confusion Busting

Part XIV—On One Condition

Part XV—Absolutely

Part XVI—As Well, Too

Part XVII—Dates

Part XVIII—Addresses

Resources

Chicago Manual of Style, The. 15th ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003.

Hacker, Diana, The Bedford Handbook for Writers, 3rd ed. Boston: St. Martin’s Press: 1991.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Punctuation: Commas, Part XIX—Names

  1. Commas are still used for suffixes in names for living people. Although usage for historical figures may change in text books, on licenses and passports and birth certificates and social security numbers, the comma is part of the legal identity of the person.

    Thus, when those people participate in correspondence, the comma is used.

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