Proper use of commas for dates
February 7, 2010 1:58 AM   Subscribe

"Sunday 7 February 2010." Is a comma required between "Sunday" and "7"?
posted by Busoni to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by essexjan at 2:05 AM on February 7, 2010

If it's part of a sentence, it should probably have a comma. But this is more of a style question, not a grammar question. Check whatever style guide is relevant to what you're writing.
posted by embrangled at 2:46 AM on February 7, 2010

If I were writing it in that manner I would always say "Sunday, February 7th, 2010" But that's just my personal preference, can't say that it's actually 'correct'.
posted by Jawn at 3:07 AM on February 7, 2010

You don't need the th in that format.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:08 AM on February 7, 2010

From Strunk & White:

Dates usually contain parenthetic words or figures. Punctuate as follows:

February to July, 1992

April 6, 1986

Wednesday, November 14, 1990

Note that it is customary to omit the comma in

6 April 1988

The last form is an excellent way to write a date; the figures are separated by a word and are, for that reason, quickly grasped.

Following that logic, I would not use a comma after Sunday in your example.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:21 AM on February 7, 2010

As others have said, use whichever style guide suits you. The date construction in your question doesn't really fit common usage though. If I was going to use your date's construction order though I would change "Sunday 7 February 2010" to Sunday, the 7th of February, 2010.
posted by bigmusic at 3:42 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Busoni, ignore smorange's ad hominem argument for a second and think about Strunk's logic.
There is no confusion because of the word number word number format.
I would not pause when reading it. If you wanted to pause, you would logically pause not once, but twice.
If you were to put a comma after Sunday, you should logically put another after February, no? Why would only one comma make sense?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:46 AM on February 7, 2010

People, don't comment if you don't know what you're talking about. "Sunday, 7 February 2010" is perfectly correct standard usage in the UK. Americans usually write Sunday, February 7, 2010. But both are correct. You can Google this easily. If you don't know the answer, don't answer the question.
posted by smorange at 3:58 AM on February 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

You can Google this easily.

If you already know what it is. ("British English writing dates.")
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:11 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

How about everyone chills out and remembers that there are no absolute rules for language, especially English, especially when we don't know whether the asker is writing for British, American, Singaporean or Antarctican audiences.

For the record, my general rule is "Will this make someone stop and have to think about what I just wrote?" Neither "Sunday, 7 February 2010" nor "Sunday 7 February 2010" would do that. But the former looks more correct to me personally, though I can't articulate why.
posted by Etrigan at 6:13 AM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Essexjan, w-g p, and smorange (in the 3:58 post) have given you the correct answer. There should be a comma after Sunday: Sunday, 7 February 2010. If you’re using it in a sentence, it would be: "On Sunday, 7 February 2010, I inadvertently set off a cantankerous exchange on Ask MeFi with an innocent question about punctuation."

For those of you keeping score at home, The Chicago Manual of Style agrees with Strunk and White that commas are not necessary in the middle of the day-month-year system, even though Chicago does not have the same unconditional praise for the system that Strunk and White have.

Explanation from Chicago (6.46):

In the day-month-year system—sometimes awkward in regular text, though useful in material that requires many full dates—no commas are needed.

Example from Chicago:
Bradford gradually came to accept the verdict. (See his journal entries of 6 October 1999 and 4 January 2000.)

Chicago does not appear to address the issue of whether a comma is necessary between the day of the week and the date. Luckily, Strunk and White do (see the third example in w-g p’s post).

As an aside, The Chicago Manual of Style is not the final arbiter on all matters of style. It is simply the accepted style manual for many book publishers. However, everyday usage is not book publishing, which is why a book such as Strunk and White’s Elements of Style is a perfectly good guide for answering a question such as this one. Furthermore, Chicago is not the only style guide for books. At least one (very) large book publisher that I know of uses the ancient Words into Type rather than Chicago. Of course, if you're dealing with other types of publications (and maybe even some books), AP is often the accepted style.

As a further aside, it’s pretty funny that folks on Ask MeFi can be perfectly cordial when it comes to highly-emotional issues about their families, their finances, and their sex lives. Break out a grammar/usage/punctuation question, though, and we argue as though our sacred honor is at stake. (I don't pretend to be immune to this, by the way. What the hell am I doing digging out style guides before 9:00 on a Sunday morning? What is wrong with us?)
posted by TEA at 6:16 AM on February 7, 2010 [6 favorites]

smorange and TEA are correct; ignore any contrary answers.
posted by languagehat at 6:49 AM on February 7, 2010

I like the comma after the day of the week, because is separate the 2 systems.

Day of the week is not part of the Day of the year system. Two different pieces of information are being communicated, and clarity is improved if they are not run together.

Thus, as others have said:
"Sunday, 7 February 2010" not "Sunday 7 February 2010"
posted by SLC Mom at 7:51 AM on February 7, 2010

Weapons-grade pandemonium has it.
posted by Paris Elk at 10:15 AM on February 7, 2010

Day of the week is not part of the Day of the year system. Two different pieces of information are being communicated

Nonsense. There is a sequence of information being communicated, including day of the week, day of the month, and month of the year.
There are many cases where we write such sequences without punctuation: He was driving a red 1988 Ferrari Testarossa.
Do you really think putting a comma after red improves the logic or flow of the sentence?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:55 AM on February 7, 2010

Sunday, 7 February 2010 as the standard format.

No-one will cut off your right middle finger for omitting the comma, but it's not quite as clear and not as standard.
posted by desuetude at 1:13 PM on February 7, 2010

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