Commas with the State and the Year

The English rule is that the year is surrounded by commas when it follows the date and that the state is surrounded by commas when it follows the city.

…happened on May 4, 2013, near Tulsa.
…lived in El Paso, Texas, for many years.

The confusion often comes when these combinations are used as adjectives before a noun. The rule that says that there is never a comma between an adjective and the noun it modifies is about putting a single comma there.

It is important to note here — and everywhere — that there is a difference between using ONE comma to separate language elements and using a pair of commas to surround those elements. A pair of commas can be used anywhere. When the element is removed, both commas go with it.

In the instances of the year after the date and the state after the city, it is correct to always surround them with commas.

Just a note on the ZIP code. It forms a unit with whatever it follows and never has commas of its own.

…has lived in Culver City, California 90230, all his life.
…has lived in Culver City 90230 all his life.

Happy punctuating!



September is a busy month for seminars. I will be in Northern CA for a “live” seminar on September 7 and a student seminar on the 6th and am doing four online seminars the next two weeks. Then off to Indiana and Michigan for their conventions the end of the month. Hope to see you somewhere!

(Check my website for details.)

Happy punctuating!


Quotes and the Words That Get Us Into Them

The term “lead-in words” is used to describe the words that introduce quotes. Traditionally they are

…I said…
…did he ask…
…she replied…
…did you state…

Some of the “modern” innovations are “I go” and “he went” and “I’m all.”

When there are two sentences separated by lead-in words, a period has to go on one side or the other between the quotes.

… “I got there at 2:00,” he said. “Where were you?”


… “I got there at 2:00.” He said, “Where were you?”

If the sentences could possibly go together, of course, the lead-in words are surrounded by commas.

…”I will not be deterred,” I stated emphatically, “from my goal.”

Happy punctuating!


I Am Back!

Well, after the convention and some other issues, I am back.

Someone recently asked why a sentence inside of a sentence has to have dashes and not just commas. The answer is that, just as two sentences that have no conjunction between them cannot be connected by a comma, a sentence dropped into another sentence cannot just be surrounded by commas.

…He was thought to be younger than he appeared. I know you have heard this.
…He was thought — I know you have heard this — to be younger than he appeared.

And if the sentence that is dropped into the middle is asking a question, it has to have a question mark inside the dashes.

…He was thought — have you heard this? — to be younger than he appeared.

Happy punctuating!


Capping Titles in Front of the Name

A rule of thumb, perhaps:

When trying to discern whether something is a “title” in front of a name, think of whether it sounds “normal and usual” to walk into a room and say, “Good morning, —–.”

We would walk in and say, “Good morning, Doctor (Officer, Sergeant, Judge, Counsel).” These are titles.

We would probably not walk in and say, “Good morning, court reporter (attorney, garbage collector, accountant).” These are job descriptions.

We cap titles in front of names.