2007March1, Thursday

Pet Peeve: City (Comma) State (Comma) and Keep on Writing

Posted in Pet Peeves at 14:38 by Trey Austin

One thing that absolutely irks me to no end is when people write about a city and state in some text but don’t properly punctuate the city and state. Yeah, i know; it sounds like i’m picking nits here, but it really does get on my nerves.

Here’s an example of what i’m talking about from the WorldMag Blog:

Mt. Diablo High School in Concord, California is taking flack for holding race-based pep assemblies to motivate students to perform better on national tests. (“Diabolical Diversity” entry for today, March 1, 2007)

Now, far be it from me to correct people who have a weekly magazine with a nation-wide readership, but when someone writes “Concord, California” and does add the necessary comma after “California,” it really changes the way the sentence reads. For a second, i was thinkng that California is taking flack, when in actuality, Mt. Diablo HS (which happens to be in Concord, a city in California) is taking flack.

Of course, it should read thusly: “Mt. Diablo High School in Concord, California, is taking flack….”

Whenever a city is mentioned, and the state follows it as a descriptor, it is, grammatically speaking, an appositive phrase (specifically, a restrictive appositive phrase), and while not all apositive phrases are surrounded by commas, there is no appositive phrase that has only one comma; it’s all or nothing. If the appositive phrase is opened with a comma, it must be closed with a comma (unless closed by some other, “bigger” punctuation, like a period, colon, semi-colon, paren, or what have you).

I’m seeing this phenomenon more and more, for some strage reason. Is there a reason that people are only putting a comma in between the city and state without also adding one after the state? Don’t they teach this in colleges these days? In my theological writing class in college, my prof would have dinged me crazy on something like that. Maybe we should start getting magazine subscriptions, correcting them in red ink, putting a grade on them, and sending them back to the edior-in-chief, just to let him know how he’s doing.



  1. Tim Prussic said,

    Hehe.. how often did you write of Concord, California, in your theological writing classes!

    Curiously, I was born near Concord, California, and lived there for a year or two as one of my parents’ young viapers in covenantal diapers.

  2. Austin Storm said,

    Says the person who doesn’t capitalize the first person singular pronoun… =P

  3. Tempe said,

    Yes, Austin, I (i?) was thinking the same thing! Actually, that doesn’t bother me as much as spelling “a lot” as if it were one word… 😉

    Trey is a dear brother and knows I’m just picking at him. 🙂

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