Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California said during an April 22, 2009 hearing on credit card reform conducted by the U.S. House Financial Services Committee …For over a decade now, I’ve been getting paid to stick commas into passages like that: “ … an April 22, 2009, hearing …” The idea is that commas (among their other jobs) set off parenthetical information. So without a comma after 2009, the lone comma before it severs the first half of the sentence from the last. It’s almost like, if you read it aloud, it would be: “Waters said during an April 22. (Deep breath.) Two thousand nine hearing on credit card reform …”
The second comma makes clear that the first did not indicate a break in the sentence. It was working as part of a pair to set off parenthetical information.
People using “Inc.” almost always leave out the second comma. It’s easy to see why. The first comma could easily be seen as part of the proper name in “ABC Co., Inc.” Whereas a second comma comes at the point at which the name connects to the rest of the sentence. Still, according to us copy editors at least, if you use a comma before “Inc.” you need one after it.
But it seems that the second comma is getting less and less common. The lone comma seen in the AOL News example above seems to be becoming the norm. I’m left wondering whether I should change my mind about the necessity of that second comma and whether soon I’ll be starting every sentence I speak with, “Back in my day …”
P.S. I stole the headline for this piece from a 2006 Boston Herald interview about "Grammar Snobs." So, no props for me! P.P.S. I stole "no props for me" from the Seinfeld Soup Nazi, kinda. So maybe that makes me the Worst Person in the World. P.P.P.S I stole "Worst Person in the World" from Keith Olbermann, but I hope that's understandable, since I'm just a squirrel trying to get a nut ..."
And so on.
P.P.P.P.S. Apologies to Kurt Vonnegut.