Don’t Be Confounded by the Comma


It’s just a little comma, but it can be confusing! The placement of a comma can completely change the meaning of a sentence.

In today’s tip, we’ll focus on ways you properly use a comma using the Chicago Manual of Style.

Commas used after city and state

Which is correct?
A: I attended a university in Tahlequah, Oklahoma for three years.
B: I attended a university in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, for three years.

Correct answer is B.

Chicago Manual of Style: When writing the name of a city followed by its state, most writers know to include the comma between the two, but often overlook the comma that’s required after the state name.

Commas used after a month-day-year date

Which is correct?
A: She left the house on May 1, 2014, to have lunch with a friend.
B: She left the house on May 1, 2014 to have lunch with a friend.

Correct answer is A.

Chicago Manual of Style: A complete date (consisting of a month, day, and year) requires a comma after the day and after the year.

Including a comma between a month and year

Which is correct?
A: She returned from her trip in August 2014 for the wedding.
B: She returned from her trip in August, 2014 for the wedding.

Correct answer is A. (This one surprised me!)

Chicago Manual of Style: If you’re writing just a month and year (without a day), don’t separate them with a comma. And don’t include a comma after the year.

Placing a comma outside quotation marks

Which is correct?
A: My favorite movies are “Forest Gump”, “The Village”, and “Wizard of Oz.”
B: My favorite movies are “Forest Gump,” “The Village,” and “Wizard of Oz.”

The correct answer is B.

Chicago Manual of Style: Put a comma that follows a closing quotation mark inside the quote (in other words, before the ending quotation mark).

In today’s tip, I used the Chicago Manual of Style, but if a publication requires the Associated Press Style Handbook there may be some differences.
These are essential tools for your writing library. You can purchase a Chicago Manual of Style Quick Tip version or an Associated Press Style Handbook online easily.

YOUR ASSIGNMENT IF YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT
  1. Share the surprising comma rule you discovered in this tip.
  2. Use it in a sentence.
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