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To me, "California," "New Jersey," "Texas," "N.Y.," and "1969" are functioning as appositives in the examples below, when in fact they are not. All these words are essential information to the sentence. That said, can we drop the comma after each in the sentences below—yes or no?

Joe said, "The Sacramento, California, police department is under scrutiny."

Midge said, "The Elizabeth, New Jersey, warehouse was inspected."

Stephen said, "The Austin, Texas, jury acquitted the defendant."

Theresa said, "Brooklyn, N.Y., is where I grew up."

Frank said, "February 7, 1969, is my date of birth."

Thank you.

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  • Are those sentences of your own devising, or are you citing something else? I find them unlikely in written English.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 14:33
  • I concocted them. I hear this type of usage all the time.
    – joeblow
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 14:36
  • You hear commas? Really?
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 14:37
  • @tchrist: it's the same sound as what the setting sun makes as it just drops over the horizon.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 14:40
  • People are used to seeing commas after these in writing, and if you drop them they will get confused (even though people don't pause after them when they're speaking). Thair iz sumthing too bee sed fore riting the way other peepel expect yoo too, eeven if it izent lojikal. Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 14:40

2 Answers 2

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As a rough guide I would suggest only using two commas where the element between the commas could be replaced with a relative clause. Otherwise, what you have is essentially a single constituent representing 'hierarchal information'; in the latter case, I would suggest a single comma between each element, or else another solution such as using parentheses.

So for example, it's odd to say:

The Sacramento, which is in California, police department is under scrutiny.

so by the same token avoid putting both commas and simply write:

The Sacramento, California police department is under scrutiny.

or:

The Sacramento (California) police department is under scrutiny.

On the other hand, a relative clause works here:

Brooklyn, which is in N.Y., is where I grew up.

so in that case it is less jarring to use both commas. Though for the sake of simplifying the amount of punctuation, I would suggest simply:

Brooklyn (NY) is where I grew up.

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Of the following possibilities some are 'nicer' than others, but strictly speaking all are correct. 'The Austin,Texas, jury . . . ' 'The Austin TX jury . . .' 'The Texan Austin jury . . .' 'The jury in Austin, Texas, . . .' etc.

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    Not *The Texan Austin jury (unless there were several Austin juries, and only one of them was Texan, which is not a default assumption). Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 16:45

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