Hmm … how to punctuate abbreviations?

This week, we again pull a question from the mailbag:

Dear Scribe:

How do we punctuate abbreviations such as Jr., M.D., Ph.D, Inc., and L.L.C.?

/s/ Loyal reader, J.D.

Dear loyal, here is the short answer to your question:  it depends.

When you have an abbreviation like “Jr.” or “Sr.” that follows a personal name, don’t insert a comma before the name, e.g.,

  • Correct:      Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the key leaders of the national civil rights movement.
  • Incorrect:   Al Gore, Jr. narrowly lost the 2000 presidential election.

But you should insert a comma before academic-degree abbreviations after a personal name, e.g.,

  • Correct:      Jacob “Jack” Kevorkian, M.D. was an American pathologist who was often known by the nickname “Dr. Death.”
  • Incorrect:   The Imperial College awarded a doctorate degree to rocker Brian May Ph.D (who wrote the Queen classics “We Will Rock You” and “The Show Must Go On”) in 2007.

And always insert a comma between a company name and a business-enterprise abbreviation, e.g.,

  • Correct:      Michael Jordan signed lucrative endorsement deals with Nike, Inc.
  • Incorrect:   The Portland Trail Blazers professional basketball team is owned by Trail Blazers Inc.

Finally, as illustrated in the examples above, don’t insert a comma after any such abbreviation to separate it from the rest of the sentence.

That is all for now …

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