comma with date: It was on Tuesday, December 11, that we...

silver lining

Member
French - Canada
Hello everyone,

I know you're supposed to set the year off with commas when you're writing a date:

It was on Tuesday, December 11, 2012, that we held our first meeting.
All entries received by Wednesday, December 12, 2012, will be honoured.

However, if you omit the year in the date, should the comma after the day of the month stay put?

It was on Tuesday, December 11, that we held our first meeting.
All entries received by Wednesday, December 12, will be honoured.

I would think so, since the date (December 11, December 12) is a non-restrictive appositive modifying the day of the week and should therefore be set off with commas, but is there another way of looking at it? I've often seen it without the second comma (and that's how the dates are written in the document I have to correct), so I was wondering if another interpretation was plausible.

Thank you all for your much-appreciated help!
 
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  • Miss Julie

    Senior Member
    English-U.S.
    No commas at all, ever...
    ...in British English. In American English, at least in the literacy class in which I volunteer, students are taught that these sentences are correct:

    It was on Tuesday, December 11, 2012, that we held our first meeting.
    All entries received by Wednesday, December 12, 2012, will be honoured ("honored" in AmE).

    However, if there is no year, there is no comma. (But there is still a comma between day and date.)

    It was on Tuesday, December 11 (no comma) that we held our first meeting.
    All entries received by Wednesday, December 12 (no comma) will be honoured/honored.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    The problem is that date writing is highly conventional, and is often disassociated from pronunciation and grammar. If I were to say those words in that order, I wouldn't say the date as a supplemental appositive. The day and the date, at least, would be in the same intonation phrase (where \/ indicates non-final fall-rise and \ indicates final fall):

    It was on Tuesday December the e\/leventh that we held our first \meeting.
    All entries received by Wednesday December the \/twelfth will be \honoured.

    It would seem portentous to give a non-final intonation contour to the day name:

    It was on \/Tuesday December the e\/leventh that we held our first \meeting.
    All entries received by \/Wednesday December the \/twelfth will be \honoured.

    This suggest this punctuation (or no commas at all), which however I cannot recommend as it's so much against the conventions:

    It was on Tuesday December 11, that we held our first meeting.
    All entries received by Wednesday December 12, will be honoured.
     

    silver lining

    Member
    French - Canada
    Thank you all for your answers.

    However, I still can't wrap my head around the lone comme before the day of the month (December 11, December 12). If the comma is used to introduce a non-restrictive (and thus parenthetical) element, shouldn't the second comma be mandatory?
     

    Miss Julie

    Senior Member
    English-U.S.
    Thank you all for your answers.

    However, I still can't wrap my head around the lone comma before the day of the month (December 11, December 12). If the comma is used to introduce a non-restrictive (and thus parenthetical) element, shouldn't the second comma be mandatory?
    Ordinarily you're right, but this is just the weird (American) style for dates. :eek:
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Look at it this way. There is a single string representing the date, however full it is; the grammar of the internal structure is unimportant, only the fact that it has one or more internal parts. If more, they get separated by commas. Outside the date there is no need for commas. Thus this would be logical:

    It was on Tuesday that we held our first meeting.
    It was on Tuesday, December 11 that we held our first meeting.
    It was on Tuesday, December 11, 2012 that we held our first meeting.

    All those commas are doing the same thing. If, unfortunately, you have some fixed convention you have to stick to (for whatever reason), you just have to accept that logic or symmetry or grammar or whatever isn't the final arbiter.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I suppose the people that like this "extra" comma believe that in "December 11, 2012" is another name (an appositive) for this particular "Tuesday" rather than the whole phrase being the name of one particular day.
    In speech, I hear it both ways - one continuous phrase and Tuesday plus a parenthetical mention of the date - so it seems that both punctuations could be correct IF punctuation was meant to indicate the pattern used by the speaker.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Outside the date there is no need for commas. Thus this would be logical:

    It was on Tuesday that we held our first meeting.
    It was on Tuesday, December 11 that we held our first meeting.
    It was on Tuesday, December 11, 2012 that we held our first meeting.
    These are precisely the ways I'd write these sentences. There's no reason for a comma before "that"; in fact I'd call it wrong.
     

    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    Well, I wouldn't call it wrong. Far from it. But as Entangled explained, with dates, it all comes down to convention, not logic. In the convention I follow, which is primarily (for professional reasons) The Associated Press Stylebook, this is how the commas would be placed in those sentences:
    A. It was on Tuesday that we held our first meeting.
    B. It was on Tuesday, December 11, that we held our first meeting.
    C. It was on Tuesday, December 11, 2012, that we held our first meeting. (Except that it's unlikely that I'd ever write this because there is almost never a reason to include the day of the week and the day of the month and the year, all to indentify one date.)

    To me (and apparently to AP), there are two elements in opposition to each other, and like any other element in opposition, they are set off by commas - two commas, one before the element in opposition and one after. In sentence B, "Tuesday" is in opposition to "December 11." In C, "Tuesday" is in opposition to "December 11, 2012" - the entire phrase, not just the month and date. Therefore, just as you put a comma before the element that's in opposition, so you put one after.

    Failing that, the BE system of no commas at all seems preferable to "...December 11, 2012 [no comma] that we..."

    I'm not saying that considering dates as elements in opposition is the only right way to do it, but it makes as much sense as anything else. It's also followed by every newspaper in the US that follows AP style (which is most of them), so if I'm wrong, I have a lot of company.:)
     
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