Commas With Academic Degrees and Titles

Abbreviations for academic degrees or titles that follow a name should be surrounded by commas. When preceding a name, however, the abbreviation (or title) must not be followed by a comma.

Abbreviations for academic degrees or titles that follow a name should be surrounded by commas.

Evelyn Garcia, Ph.D., presided the symposium on sustainable energy.

Evelyn Garcia Ph.D. presided the symposium on sustainable energy.

When preceding a name, however, the abbreviation (or title) must not be followed by a comma.

Dr. Benjamin Smith studied the effects of sugar consumption on children.

Dr., Benjamin Smith studied the effects of sugar consumption on children.

1. Abbreviations for Academic Degrees and Titles After Names

A parenthetic expression is a word or word group that adds information without changing the essential meaning of a sentence. Since abbreviations for academic degrees and titles after a name are considered parenthetic, they should be punctuated accordingly.(1)

Alexander White, MD, attended the 14th European Public Health Conference.

Alexander White MD attended the 14th European Public Health Conference.

Follow the same strategy when using job descriptions, qualifications, or skills for a role.

Lucas Moore, engineer assistant, resolves technical problems by collecting and analyzing information.

Do not separate, however, a noun from a restrictive description.

Billy the Kid killed eight men before he was shot.

Billy, the Kid, killed eight men before he was shot.

After a name, the abbreviations Jr. and Sr have traditionally been preceded and followed by a comma. Since Jr. and Sr. are frequently restrictive, this comma is no longer considered mandatory.

William Brown Jr. was first elected Attorney General in 2016.

2. Using Titles and Abbreviations Before Names

If a title, abbreviation, or academic degree precedes a name, do not place a comma after it.

Professor Isabella Lopez studied at Harvard University.

Ms. Sophia Johnson is visiting the country on business.

More broadly, avoid separating a noun from a restrictive term of identification.(1)

The singer Mary Wilson died in February 2021.

The singer, Mary Wilson died in February 2021.

Finally, do not use Ms., Mr., Ms., Dr., etc. with a title or an abbreviation denoting an academic degree.

Mr. James Hernandez

Mr. James Hernandez, MD.

James Hernandez, MD

Dr. James Hernandez, MD.

Recommended: Commas when addressing people

3. More Examples

  • Leonor, Princess of Asturias, is the elder daughter of King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia.
  • The actor Paul Newman was married twice and fathered six children.
  • Harper Miller, Ph.D., is studying the relationship between alcohol intoxication and risky driving.
  • Henry Jones, Attorney, requested an adjournment.
  • Alexander the Great was tutored by Aristotle until the age of 16.
  • Ava Miller, Professor of Human Neuroscience, explores many facets of language development.
  • The novelist Agatha Christie wrote 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections.
  • Professor Clark is chair of the Foreign Languages Department.
  • Attila the Hun was one of the most feared enemies of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires.
  • John Taylor, Educational Therapist, addresses learning disabilities and learning problems.

4. Conclusion

Follow these simple guidelines to punctuate correctly job descriptions, titles, abbreviations for academic degrees, etc. when preceding or following a name.

  1. After a name, place abbreviations for titles and academic degrees between commas(e.g., John Miller, MD).
  2. In front of a name, do not place a comma when using an abbreviation (e.g., Dr. Peter White).
  3. Avoid separating a noun from a restrictive description or term for identification (e.g., William the Conqueror or Billy the Kid).

5. References

(1) Strunk JR., William; White, E.B. The Elements of Style. Chapter 1 - Elementary Rules of Usage.

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