Q. Hello! I have a comma question. Which is the preferred punctuation: Amherst, Massachusetts’ Emily Dickinson . . . OR Amherst, Massachusetts’, Emily Dickinson . . . ? Recasting the sentence is not a useful option because there is a longish list of names and places: Long Branch, New Jersey’s Bruce Springsteen and Lachine, Quebec’s Saul Bellow and . . . Thanks.
A. Rewriting to avoid the possessive is (almost) always an option; that’s what “of” is for. Try “Emily Dickinson of Amherst, Massachusetts; Bruce Springsteen of Long Branch, New Jersey; etc.” Parentheses are another useful alternative: “Emily Dickinson (Amherst, Massachusetts)” (or vice versa). But if you must stick to the possessive, you have our permission to drop the second comma (the one after the state or province) as a reasonable exception to Chicago’s preference for commas in pairs, a preference that applies also to dates (see CMOS 6.17 and 6.38–39). Note that Chicago style for the possessive form of Amherst’s home state requires an apostrophe and an s: Massachusetts’s Emily Dickinson (another incentive to avoid the possessive).