Tag Archives: punctuation

Punctuation: Commas, Part XX—Quotes

When direct quotations are cited in writing, usually they are introduced with a phrase such as he said or the like and set off with commas:

Presidents Day celebrates the birthday of George Washington, who said, “I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is the best policy.”

The first president also wrote, “Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”

(Longer or more formal quotations are introduced by a colon, which will be discussed in a later post.)

If a quotation is introduced by that, whether, or a similar conjunction, do not use a comma:

Washington urged that “A man’s intentions should be allowed in some respects to plead for his actions.”

A quotation that is functioning as an apposition or the direct object of a verb is also set off by a comma:

In today’s economic climate, I am reminded of Washington’s sage advice, “To contract new debts is not the way to pay old ones.”

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

Part XIX—Names

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.

Strunk Jr., William, and White, E.B. The Elements of Style. 4th ed. New York: Longman, 2000.

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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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Tuesday Afternoon Punctuation: Commas, Part XVIII—Addresses

When addresses and place names appear in text, use commas to separate the individual elements. Think of it this way: at any point where you would start a new line when addressing an envelope, use a comma (so don’t set off abbreviations such as NE or zip codes with commas):

When touring the nation’s capital, make sure to schedule a visit to the White House, located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500, preferably in early April when the Japanese Cherry Blossoms are blooming.

When Jeff and I vacationed in Washington a few years ago, we rented a car and drove to Baltimore, Maryland, to watch the Vikings play the Ravens.

It can get awkward when you’re using a place name that requires a comma as an adjective:

This weekend, the Vikings played the Baltimore, Maryland, Ravens and beat them in a close game.

Your best bet is to rewrite the sentence to avoid the issue:

This weekend, the Vikings played the Baltimore Ravens and beat them in a close game.

This weekend, the Vikings played the Ravens from Baltimore, Maryland, and beat them in a close game.

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

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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Tuesday Afternoon Punctuation: Commas, Part XVII—Dates

In the United States, dates are expressed using a month-day-year format. In this style, a pair of commas sets off the year from the rest of the sentence:

On September 1, 1998, I arrived in Los Angeles for the first time.

The March 27, 2009, interview yielded unexpected opportunities months later.

In the latter example, the date modifies interview. This construction can be awkward, as the adjectival phrase March 27, 2009, points the reader forward toward interview while the commas around 2009 point the reader back toward March 27. The sentence can easily be rewritten, however, to avoid the issue altogether:

The interview on March 27, 2009, yielded unexpected opportunities months later.

In other parts of the English-speaking world, dates are expressed in the much more sensible day-month-year format in which no commas are used:

I graduated from my master’s program on 15 May 2009.

Also, when only a month and year or a specific day (such as a holiday) are mentioned, no commas are used:

Both my parents and my sister and brother-in-law celebrate milestone anniversaries in June 2010.

My good friend’s baby was born on Mother’s Day 2009.

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

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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Tuesday Afternoon Punctuation: Commas, Part XVI—As Well, Too

Reader Teresa Frohock recently raised a comma-related question that I haven’t run across in my research on the prolific punctuation mark but have often wondered about in my day-to-day writing:

This seems like a silly question, but I’ve had people remove the comma when I’ve written a sentence like this:

I went to the store, too.

Is it incorrect to insert a comma before the word “too” or the phrase “as well”? Also, if the word “too” is inserted mid-sentence, would the comma come before and after?

For example: He went, too, but there was no reason for him to go.

Help!

Thanks for writing in, Teresa. This is a topic I’ve struggled with too (and may have just answered for you!).

According to the Q&A section of The Chicago Manual of Style’s online edition, when you’re using too to mean “also,” you don’t usually need to use commas. So Teresa’s sample sentence should read

I went to the store too.

Because as well is used similarly to mean “also,” you wouldn’t need to use commas with it, either:

I went to the store as well.

You would use a comma after too when it starts a sentence, but this isn’t a sentence structure used by too many writers (other than Sarah Palin).

If, however, you’re using too to indicate a change of thought, then do use commas:

When Jeff’s stepbrother got married, the couple requested that donations be given in their names in lieu of gifts, but then, too, they’re consolidating two homes and don’t need the household items that most newlyweds do.

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

Resources

“Commas.” Chicago Style Q&A. Chicago Manual of Style Online, The. 29 September 2009 <http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/CMS_FAQ/Commas/Commas27.html>

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Happy National Punctuation Day!

What better way to celebrate than by baking a cake? At least, that’s what the holiday’s founder Jeff Rubin would have you do. You have until September 30 to come up with your punctuation-inspired concoction and compete for grammar-geek paraphernalia. For details, and more ways to celebrate, visit the NPD website.

I may have inadvertently celebrated National Punctuation Day early by baking both a birthday cake and banana bread yesterday morning, before the latest SoCal heatwave warmed my apartment like the inside of an oven. I doubt my mixed-media exclamation point will win any contests, though:

npd_baking

How are you celebrating National Punctuation Day?

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Tuesday Afternoon Punctuation: Commas, Part XV—Absolutely

Mots Justes is nearing the end of its ongoing series on commas. Just a few more posts on this multitasking punctuation mark, and we’ll move on to the elegant semicolon, I promise!

Always use a comma to set off an absolute phrase. An absolute phrase consists of a noun followed by a participle or participial phrase and modifies the whole sentence. It can appear at the beginning or end of a sentence, but in either case, use a comma:

Another heat wave threatening Southern California this week, I am seeking refuge during the day at Jeff’s office.

I dread early autumn in Los Angeles, September being the hottest month of the year here.

Don’t, however, use a comma to separate the noun from the participle in an absolute phrase—i.e., in the above examples, there should be no comma between heat wave and threatening or September and being.

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

Resources

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

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