Do You Need Commas with Namesakes?


Namesakes are people (or things) who have the same name as another. For this post, we’ll focus on names that include Sr., Jr., III, etc.

Let’s imagine a man named Daniel Smith. His father is also Daniel Smith. That would make the first one I mentioned Daniel Smith Jr. and his father Daniel Smith Sr. If Daniel Smith Jr. has a son to whom he gives the same name, the son would be Daniel Smith III. They would be namesakes of the Daniel Smith Sr.

While I’m sure most people understand how namesakes work within a family and through naming conventions, they may never have heard the term.

Sometimes, you can be named after someone without being a junior or a third, etc. I carry the same middle name as my dad, but we have different first names, so I’m not a junior. Two of my closest friends chose to give their youngest son the middle name Patrick. While he’s a namesake in that way, he’s obviously not a junior.

There was a time when you probably learned in grammar class that you separated the name and theSr. and Jr. suffixes with a comma. So we’d write, “Daniel Smith, Jr.” You didn’t need a comma, the rules say, with you reach past the Jr. stage and move into Roman numerals like III, IV, V, and so on.

If we placed his name in the middle of a sentence, we put a comma after the suffix as well:

The committee announced that Daniel Smith, III, won the award for his work to improve the neighborhood.

There seems to be a growing movement to ditch those commas.

AP Style says you don’t need commas for namesakes

The Associated Press Stylebook, the style guide that newsrooms around the globe use as a style guide for sharing content, say you can skip the commas.

Instead of “Daniel Smith, Sr.,” it prefers “Daniel Smith Sr.”

You’d only include a comma after the suffix if you’d use one if there were no suffix. For example, if I were going to write a news story in which I included someone’s age, I could set off the age in commas immediately after their name:

Mary Johnson, 34, learned of her diagnosis during her doctor’s appointment.

But if I were going to write the same sentence using a namesake and no age, I wouldn’t include a comma, according to AP Style:

Daniel Smith IV learned of his diagnosis during his doctor’s appointment.

The Chicago Manual of Style used to recommend commas. But as of its 1993 edition, it no longer requires them, either.

It does note, however, that if you decide to use the comma before the Sr. or Jr., since the comma sets the suffix apart, you’d need another comma after it:

The committee elected Lucas Jamison, Sr., to serve as its chairman.

If you use a different style guide that still requires commas, then you should use commas. If you don’t have any one style guide that you follow — and for whatever reason, you don’t want to find one to standardize your presentation — you will have to decide for yourself whether namesakes with commas look better than namesakes without them.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.