Comma with Jr. or III

Roslyn Hamp asks:

When you write a name with a jr. after the last name, a comma is used. When you write III, do you put a comma after the name:

John Jones, Jr.
John Jones III (is a comma needed)?

You are correct that, at least traditionally, a comma is used with Jr. In fact, if Jr. appears in the middle of a sentence, a comma is used before and after it: “The abbreviations etc. and jr. are always preceded by a comma, and except at the end of a sentence, followed by one.” (Strunk and White, The Elements of Style)

To answer your question, though, I’ll refer to the Chicago Manual of Style:

Q. John Smith Jr. or John Smith, Jr.? John Smith III or John Smith, III?

A. Traditionally, it would be John Smith, Jr., and John Smith III. But beginning with the fourteenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style (1993), the recommendation is to use no commas in either case (see paragraph 6.49 of the fifteenth edition):

John Smith Jr.

But please note that within text, if you decide to use the more traditional comma before Jr. or Sr., the function of the comma is to set off these abbreviations, so an additional comma is needed after the abbreviation if the sentence continues (as in my first sentence above).

The New St. Martin’s Handbook doesn’t recommend one way or the other for Jr., but it does note that writers are leaving the commas out:

Use commas to set off a title such as M.D., Esq., and so on from the name preceding it and from the rest of the sentence. The titles Jr. and Sr., however, are often not set off by commas.

  • Jaime Mejia, Ph.D., will speak about his anthropological research.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. was one of this century’s greatest orators.

So, if you are a traditionalist, use the commas; if you are progressive, don’t. As with many matters of grammar and punctuation, the most important thing is to be consistent.

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One Response to Comma with Jr. or III

  1. Sean says:

    What if you have a name like Stephen Q. Hammersmith, Jr., MD, would the punctuation indicated in this question be correct?