According to most style guides, when listing names and titles in a sentence, you have two options:
- Listing the person’s name first, followed by their title, separated by a comma
- Listing the person’s title first, then their name, separated by a comma
Which option you choose is determined by whether the title or the name is more important to the sentence.
Here’s how to list names and titles in a sentence appropriately.
Do you put a comma between a person’s title and their name?
Whether or not you use a comma between a person’s title and their name depends on the kind of title you’re using and the context of the sentence. For example:
- My cousin William is an artist.
- My cousin, William, is an artist.
Both versions of this sentence convey that the speaker has a cousin named William who is an artist, therefore both are correct. However, if we were to put a comma only between the title (“my cousin”) and the name:
- My cousin, William is an artist.
Now the sentence conveys that the speaker is addressing their unnamed cousin about an artist named William. Because this changes the meaning of the sentence, it is not an acceptable use of a comma in this instance.
Generally, the rule of thumb in these cases is that you can either omit the commas completely or use two: one before and one after the name.
How to list titles after names
Titles can be listed after names in most instances, but it’s most commonly done if the title is particularly long. If you are placing the title after the name, you must always put a comma between the name and the title.
Let’s look at an example:
- Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, was born in 1809.
Technically, you could put the title – “the 16th president of the United States” – before the name in this sentence and still be correct, but since it is quite long, putting it after the name helps readers understand the subject of the sentence much faster.
This can also be done with academic titles, such as for holders of Ph.Ds. It’s important to note, though, that you shouldn’t list a person as both “Dr.” and “Ph.D.;” you should list one title or the other.
- Correct: Dr. James Wright OR James Wright, Ph.D.
- Incorrect: Dr. James Wright, Ph.D.
How to list names after titles
Titles can be listed first if they are the more important part of the sentence. This is usually the case with formal or professional titles, such as those for political office, or when the speaker’s relationship to the subject is important for context. In the case of a formal title, no comma is necessary.
If, however, the title is informal, the same punctuation rules regarding commas area in play. If the name appears in the middle of the sentence, you can either use commas before and after the name or you can omit the commas completely, as shown earlier.
Here are some examples:
- This letter is from my late mother, Abigail.
- My husband Edward is away with the military.
- Senator Harrison Davis will speak at the capitol building today.
- The baker, Jim Smith, is well-known for his pastries.
How to list names and ages in a sentence
To list a name and age in a sentence, you can either list the age as a hyphenated statement (“X-year-old”) then the name, the name followed by “age” and the number, or you can simply list the name followed by the number on its own.
In the first instance, when using a hyphenated statement, no commas are necessary. In the last two instances, though, the name and age designation should be separated by a comma. If the age appears in the middle of the sentence, it should have a comma on either side.
It looks like this:
- 4-year-old Simon is in pre-school.
- Simon, age 4, is in pre-school.
- Simon, 4, is in pre-school.
For the second option, using “age,” you can opt to use “aged.” However, the use of “aged” in this context is debated by modern grammarians; though technically correct and used throughout literature, it is not a popular option for modern writers.