In this article, we will analyze when, if ever, it is grammatically correct to use a comma before country names.
It can be tricky to introduce commas into a sentence following the appropriate sequence, especially in relation to addresses that include separate sections.
Our goal is to help you discover the best way to include commas before place names in your writing.
Let’s dive into it!
Is a comma before country names always necessary?
If a country name is preceded by a city name, it is always recommended that a comma is introduced to divide the two. This concept follows the rule of restrictive and non-restrictive clauses; in this case, the country name is part of a restrictive clause. However, there are some exceptions to placing a comma before place names, for example in the event that a country name is used on its own rather than in relation to a city. Overall, the general rule to follow is that a comma should be placed before a country name only if it is preceded by a city, state or address. This also applies to abbreviated country names.
Comma before a country name in more detail
As a rule of thumb, a comma before a country name should not be placed if it is preceded by a preposition that indicates location.
Which of these two sentences do you think flows more naturally?
When taking into account rhythm, not just grammatical correctness, you will have noticed that Example 1 is more efficient than Example 2.
Example 1 is grammatically correct, while Example 2 isn’t.
The restrictive clause in this sentence is ‘France’.
By removing a crucial piece of information, such as where Joanne and her husband live, the reader is left confused about the purpose of the text.
For this reason, a comma should not be placed before or after ‘France’. When a country name is abbreviated, such as ‘U.S.A.’, the same rule applies.
What about a comma before a country name in an address?
If you’re writing a full address, which can include a country and a state name, you should separate all the names following the street address using commas:
Example 1 isolates ‘Cincinnati’ because it is a non-restrictive clause; it does not give the reader crucial information in relation to the rest of the sentence.
Since it is preceded by a preposition, a comma should also not be placed before ’46 Kemmerer Road’.
In Example 2, ‘Cincinnati’ is not isolated, which is incorrect. Additionally, a comma is placed before ’46 Kemmerer Road’, which is also incorrect.
You might have noticed that the commas in this example have emphasized non-crucial information by altering the rhythm of the sentence.
City name followed by a country name
Unless a place name is located at the end of a sentence, followed by a period, commas should always be introduced around the name of a state or a country.
This also applies when a country or a state name is abbreviated.
The examples below will highlight some of the common punctuation mistakes you might have made in this regard:
Example 1 isolates the country name, while Example 2 does not. Even though this sentence is structured as a question, the same concepts that have been highlighted previously apply.
Having stated that, Example 1 is clearly the correct option.
Place names and prolonged sentences
The below examples highlight how you should punctuate a sentence that contains both a city name followed by a country name and a stand-alone country name.
In this case, Example 1 is grammatically correct, while Example 2 is not.
Example 2 does not isolate ‘France’, like it should have based on the rule of restrictive clauses.
‘France’ is used as a restrictive clause because it is preceded by ‘Paris’, which makes it secondary information. A comma before ‘Japan’ has also been added incorrectly.
These examples should have brought to your attention some of the ways in which commas can change rhythm, emphasizing information that is not crucial to your reader’s understanding.
Writing an address in a professional setting
Whenever a regular sentence includes an address, comma placement becomes vital. Placed at the wrong spots, commas could cause a lot of unnecessary confusion.
So what is the key takeaway here as far as comma placement goes?
You should place a comma between the street address, the city and the country; however you should not include a comma between the state and the zip code.
Well, just have a look at the following example and it should all make sense.
Example 1 is correct because each section of the address is separated, except for the postcode.
This is the best way to write an address in a business email or an academic paper.
In a more casual setting, it is acceptable for you to use Example 2 as guidance, however it not grammatically correct.
If you find yourself needing to relay more information after the address, you should add a comma.
You will notice a massive improvement in the readability of your emails and essays when you begin to pay attention to punctuation.
I hope that this comprehensive guide has educated you in a way that will help you extensively with your writing.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.