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Q. I always use commas in serial lists. However, if I am referring to an entity that does not use the comma in its name, should I add it for consistency? Should the Columbia University School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation become the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation? Similarly, the Chicago Manual recommends no comma before “Inc.” If I am referring to an old firm that used the comma, should I delete it? Should Louis Sherry, Inc. become Louis Sherry Inc.?
A. There’s no harm in styling company names exactly as they do. But most of the time editors have no easy way—and certainly not the time—to check the punctuation in every company name or title that pops up in the text. Even at a company’s website, you will often find it punctuated one way in a letterhead or logo and another way in the text of the web page. That’s why we have arbitrary styling rules—we treat everyone the same way and we don’t have to pause and think about it each time.