A Most Unfortunate Comma

Few commas cause as much irritation as the one falling after the state in constructions such as this:

Annapolis, MD, is a great place to visit.

People are no less happy when it pops up here:

Ed Begley, Jr., is a funny actor.

And the irritation isn’t just from those who prefer Baltimore or the work of other comedians.

Reactions generally fall along the lines of “It’s unnecessary,” “It’s stupid,” or even “I don’t care why it’s there, because I’m not using it!”

Both Associated Press and Chicago styles call for this comma, so no matter the level of consternation, it’s a pill (bitter to many) that just has to be swallowed.

Think of it this way: when you use this comma, you’re essentially saying, “Annapolis, which is in Maryland, is a great place to visit.” You’d never leave out the second comma in this instance, so if you put it in these terms, the troublesome punctuation mark should be much more palatable.

While you can’t leave out the commas in city-state constructions, both commas can be left out with juniors and seniors. Unless the particular style you’re following specifies otherwise, it’s perfectly fine to say, “Ed Begley Jr. is a funny actor.” (Fine, of course, if you agree with the sentiment.)

So if the comma in question makes you want to gnash your teeth and pull out your hair, then dropping it entirely with juniors and seniors should give you a little thrill. And who knows? If that second comma falls further and further from general usage, the style may eventually change.

Stranger things have happened.

Leave a Comment