How to Use Commas with Dates

by admin on February 27, 2011

Few things confound writers, even experienced writers, more than the use of commas. And one place comma rules seem to be all over the place, with little rhyme or reason, is in dates. It’s enough to drive a writer to distraction! And questions on commas are particularly bothersome when it comes to writing an author’s bio, resume, or letter seeking a job that lists employment history.

In these instances where the intent is to impress, it’s more essential than ever to follow proper comma rules, particularly in dates.

When considering where your commas are going to go, it’s helpful to know what style your author’s bio, or letter, should be in. Many questions on commas can be answered once this is established. For an academic setting, it’s always wise to follow APA style rules. In APA rules, dates follow American style: Monday, day, year.  For instance, June 3, 2002. In this case, the comma would come after the day, and then the year if the date is in the middle of the sentence. For instance: “I started work at the university June 3, 2002, and remained there until 2005.”

If a date is European style – 3 June 2002 – no comma is used unless the sentence is continuing after the date. European dates are most commonly used in references, and most American style guides, including APA and AP, still use American style dates in the text, so in an author’s bio, this would be the way to go.

If a day isn’t used – June 2002 – no comma is used between the month and the date.

It’s also helpful to know the rules for essential and non-essential clauses when you have questions on commas. Commas, more than anything else, are used to separate a non-essential clause. For instance, in the previous sentence, the clause “more than anything else” is non-essential. Think of it this way: the sentence can stand without this clause. It’s not essential.

So a sentence, “I started at the school in June 2002, once I completed my degree” would use a comma after the date, simply because “once I completed my degree” is a non-essential clause. Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean the information about the degree isn’t important, or even necessary; non-essential simply means that “I started at the school in June 2002” can stand as a full sentence and retain its meaning without it.

Knowing the rules about essential and non-essential clauses can solve many of your questions on commas, not only those regarding dates.

Date comma rules also apply when an incomplete sentence is used. In a list of dates, for instance in a resume or CV, or other form of author bio, the comma is used only when a specific day is present.

June 3, 2002: Began work at the university.

June 2002: Began work at the university.

In June 3, 2002, the comma is used, because it is June 3. For the more general June 2002, the comma is not used.

So, when you have questions on commas when using dates, be sure to keep two important things in mind: the style guidelines for the institution and whether you are using American-style dates and the rules of commas in general, particularly those regarding essential and non-essential clauses.

And remember, a misplaced comma can change the meaning of a sentence. For that extra does of confidence, a professional editor, like the ones at www.professional-editing-services.com can make sure your comma usage works for you. Professional editors not only know the standard rules of punctuation, word usage, and sentence structure, but they are also up on all the latest style guides and rules.

It never hurts to have that second set of professional eyes take a look at your work.

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