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Consider the following sentence:

In July of 2012 Jesse informed us that she was engaged to be married and asked if she could add her fiancée to the lease, beginning the 15th of August 2012.

Is it any more or less correct to place a comma after the first date?

In July of 2012, Jesse informed us that she was engaged to be married and asked if she could add her fiancée to the lease, beginning the 15th of August 2012.

Assuming one is no more correct than the other, does this change the meaning of the sentence, or is it pure style?

Bonus question: Word tells me that it's improper to place a comma after the "August" at the end of the sentence. I've always been taught that a comma should be used to separate the year from the rest of the date. Was I taught wrong, or is Word lying to me?

  • Thanks, but you should write that as an answer rather than a comment. – Ben Burns Aug 13 '13 at 15:47
  • Hmm, I don't see the answer. – Ben Burns Aug 13 '13 at 16:11
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The sentence is correct with or without the comma. But the comma introduces a break/pause, which can be helpful in a longer sentence, and personally I would include it.

As regards formatting of the date, British usage used to be to separate month & year with a comma, but more recent usage omits the comma. (I can't speak for US usage, although I suspect that the comma is more likely to be included.)

In any event, for both questions, it is primarily a matter of style: there is no right or wrong way for either point.

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    You shouldn't use a comma only to introduce a pause. In this case, the comma is acceptable, not because of the pause, but because it offsets an introductory clause. More here and here. – J.R. Aug 13 '13 at 17:54
  • @J.R. I said that "the comma [does] introduce a break/pause". I did not say "use a comma to introduce a pause" - and would not do so (unless it were in a position where an optional comma were acceptable for other reasons). I was addressing the issue of whether a comma was appropriate/necessary in that particular place. I was not discussing when/where to use a comma in general. If you look at my profile you will see that I used to write pseudo-legal documents professionally (for 20y). I may not know all the terminology - but I do know how to write grammatically. – TrevorD Aug 13 '13 at 22:26
  • Trevor: My remark wasn't meant to imply that you didn't know how to write; it was more meant as a hint to others who might read your answer, and be led into thinking that you should use a comma when you want to introduce a pause. Perhaps I could've said, "One shouldn't use a comma..." instead of "You shouldn't use a comma..." At any rate, I'm glad we agree. – J.R. Aug 14 '13 at 0:14
  • I came for the grammatical advice, but I stayed for the beautiful pedantry. – Ben Burns Jun 11 '14 at 21:54
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In July of 2012 can be seen as a weak interruption to the sentence, and a comma after 2012 can be justified for that reason.

There’s no reason to put a comma after August. In fact, in British English, the date would probably as 15 August 2012.

  • This is really nitty-gritty, but in the case where the purpose of the document is to establish a series of events, where the date that the author learned of things is just as important as when said things occurred, is treating it as a weak interruption less correct? – Ben Burns Aug 13 '13 at 16:20
  • Also, you say "can be justified." Are you implying that, taken alone with no other context, both forms of the sentence are correct? – Ben Burns Aug 13 '13 at 16:22
  • In practice, I don't think anyone would notice or care whether there was a comma after 2012 or not. – Barrie England Aug 13 '13 at 17:45
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About your question about comma between month/day and year:

The 16th ed. of Chicago Manual of Style gives the following format:

1 January 2014

or

January 1, 2014

What I understand is that the comma is used in the second example because you don't want a visual confusion between the two separate numbers—not to offset the year as such.

Hence, it would be:

1 January 2014 is a good day.

But

January 1, 2014, is a good day.

I assume that the second comma in the second example is there to prevent any misunderstanding about the meaning of the sentence, in view of the first comma.

PS: New Hart's Rule is on its way, so no idea as of now about what that says.

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