by Jennie Ruby
A comma can act alone as a separator, and a comma can be part of a pair of commas setting something off. But when one of a pair of commas for setting off loses its partner, that is just wrong. An example I have been hearing of and seeing in business writing is the pair of commas that surround the year in a three part date and the pair of commas that surround the state or country. Here are some examples of this error:
- The seminar will be held on June 4, 2008 at the conference center.
- She traveled to Springfield, MA in the spring and to Falls Church, VA in the fall.
In these sentences there should be a comma after 2008 and commas after MA and VA. A three-part date, containing the month, the day, and the year, requires commas before and after the year. Confusion occurs because if you state only the month and year, you do not need commas: This is being written in May 2008. You also do not need commas with military or European style dates, where the day is placed before the month: The class will be given 4 June 2008.
There is no excuse for dropping the comma after the state or country. When you mention Avignon, France, or maybe Athens, GA, the country or state is really parenthetical, and really needs that second comma.
Note: I do hope to meet many of you online for the Essentials of Grammar online class I'll be hosting next month (June 4 and 5, 2008).
About the Author: Jennie Ruby is a veteran IconLogic trainer and author with titles such as "Essentials of Access 2000" and "Editing with MS Word 2003 and Adobe Acrobat 7" to her credit. Jennie specializes in electronic editing. At the American Psychological Association, she was manager of electronic publishing and manager of technical editing and journal production. Jennie has an M.A. from George Washington University and is a Certified Technical Trainer (Chauncey Group). She is a publishing professional with 20 years of experience in writing, editing and desktop publishing.
Want help with a grammar issue? Email us your troubles and we'll turn Jennie loose!