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I just came across this:

“There is broad agreement that the cause of the dinosaur and pterosaur extinctions were one and the same,” University of Texas, Austin paleontologist Brian Andres says. — What Doomed the Pterosaurs?

Is it actually correct to put a comma before, but not after, “Austin”?

I am finding this convention extremely annoying and illogical. If “Austin” was given in parantheses, it would be enclosed by those, and I feel like this would be the logically correct thing to do for commas as well. In fact, the German language is very strict about enclosing commas.

Is there an authoritative reference this, or concurring opinions?

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  • One should not attempt to answer this question if one is not familiar with the U.S. institutions of this sort. Contrary to what is implied in some of the answers below, The University of Texas, Austin, is a part of The University of Texas system; in some aspects of its administration it is dependent on the central authorities of the system, in some it operates on its own. It is this relationship between the particular campus and the system of which it is a part that is behind the comma in The University of Texas, Austin.
    – jsw29
    Aug 31 '21 at 15:27
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According to The Chicago Manual of Style, you need a comma both before and after Austin:

“There is broad agreement that the causes* of the dinosaur and pterosaur extinctions were one and the same,” University of Texas, Austin, paleontologist Brian Andres says.

From 6.39: Commas with addresses (login required):

Some institutional names include place-names set off by commas. When such a name appears in the middle of a clause, a second comma is required to set off the place-name. See also 6.81.

California State University, Northridge, has an enrollment of . . .

but

The University of Wisconsin–Madison has an enrollment of . . .

This is the same for cities with states/countries in text:

Waukegan, Illinois, is not far from the Wisconsin border.

The plane landed in Kampala, Uganda, that evening.

And similar the comma before and after a year:

The performance took place on February 2, 2006, at the State Theatre in Ithaca.

Style guides may vary on this topic. Consult with your institution or editor as to which guide you should follow.

*Since this is a quote, the writer and speaker both may be forgiven for not using causes plural in the original.

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  • We don't typically separate attributive, modifiers from their modificand with commas. :)
    – tchrist
    Aug 29 '21 at 0:05
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First of all, just in case there's any confusion, there are several schools all named "University of Texas," and this is the one in the city of Austin. This phenomenon is common in US States. So "University of Texas, Austin" is being used as one big phrasal noun. However, it appears that the most official form is "University of Texas at Austin", which would avoid the problem. And personally, I'd be inclined to hyphenate the whole thing: "... and the same,' University-of-Texas-at-Austin paleontologist Brian Andres says." (Wait, strike that, that's horrible. What's wrong with "... says Brian Andres, paleontologist at University of Texas at Austin"? (Aside from the at-at.))

But to answer your central question: No, even if this were a good construction, you wouldn't need to "close" the comma after "Austin." If you wrote: "Los Angeles, California, is a big city," you would be setting up "California" as an apposition, suggesting that it's the same thing as "Los Angeles." See also https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/punctuation/commas/commas_with_nonessential_elements.html for using enclosing commas around "essential" phrases.

But while we're at it, there's a subject-verb disagreement in "the cause of ___ and ___ were one and the same," most likely because the author isn't actually thinking about the sentence but just reached reflexively for the plural because the preceding word, "extinctions," is plural. I don't think I'd put too much stock in how they handle a comma.

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  • You wrote: “If you wrote: ‘Los Angeles, California, is a big city,’ you would be setting up ‘California’ as an apposition, suggesting that it's the same thing as ‘Los Angeles.’” I don’t follow your argument. By the same logic, you could argue that by dropping the second comma you would be setting up “Los Angeles” as an introduction, suggesting that “California” is a city.
    – jacques
    Aug 29 '21 at 14:30
  • The University of Texas indeed uses at in the official names of its campuses, which can avoid the problem, but the official names of the University of California campuses have commas, and not at (e.g. University of California, Berkeley).
    – jsw29
    Aug 30 '21 at 16:16
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There is broad agreement that the cause of the dinosaur and pterosaur extinctions were one and the same,” University of Texas, Austin paleontologist Brian Andres says.

Usually, you say "University of Texas at Austin" or "university of Texas, Austin", and there is a comma; this means that "Austin" is a complement telling where is the university. This can be checked on this page. It follows that if there were a comma after "Austin", the resulting pause would tend to imply the usual idea of a connection with "university of Texas", and that is not the intended grammar. "Austin" is a modifier of "paleontologist", thus a comma can't be used. If "Austin" were merely a complement aiming at precising that the University of Texas is in Austin, then the construction would be rather awkward. As it stands (no comma) it gives the impression of a somewhat "crowded" phrase, but it remains acceptable. Let's say that two such modifiers in succession are not usually found.

  • "There is broad agreement that the cause of the dinosaur and pterosaur extinctions were one and the same,” University of Texas, Austin paleontologist Brian Andres says.

Here is a rephrasing.

  • There is broad agreement that the cause of the dinosaur and pterosaur extinctions were one and the same,” says Brian Andres, the Austin paleontologist from the University of Texas.

This possible rearrangement preserves the grammatical relationship between "Austin" and "paleontologist" without addition of a preposition, and makes it salient, but the same relationship between "University of Texas" and "paleontologist" has to be implemented by means of the preposition "from". The meaning remains the same.

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  • The rephrasing means that you haven't identified the University of Texas, of which there are several.
    – Mary
    Aug 28 '21 at 22:35
  • 1
    Sorry, "Austin" in this case is not modifying "paleontologist" but is part of the proper-noun identifier of the university. Aug 28 '21 at 22:38

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