Q. In previous Q&A entries, you’ve said to include a comma after “Inc.” or “Ltd.” if a comma precedes it: “The office of ABC, Inc., was located downtown.” I could understand the reason for this if “Inc.” were replaced by a generic description: “The office of ABC, an incorporated company, was located downtown.” But since “Inc.” is a capitalized part of a formal, proper name, wouldn’t this be analogous to the example in CMOS 6.17 about titles of works, in which a title containing a comma doesn’t need to be followed by a comma (“Look Homeward, Angel was not the working title of Wolfe’s manuscript”)? If not, what’s the distinction?
A. Our recommendation depends on the idea that “Inc.” isn’t truly a formal part of a company’s name (in spite of what some companies like to think). It is, rather, a description that attaches to the formal name but is itself generic—every bit as generic as your example, “an incorporated company.” In just about the same way, “Jr.” and “Sr.” function as generic but capitalized additions to a person’s name; they signal a relationship to a parent or child with the same name, but they are not intrinsic to any one name.
A comma in the title of a novel or other work, on the other hand, belongs to that title: it can’t be deleted as a simple matter of style, as we recommend doing before “Jr.” or “Inc.” (see CMOS 6.43 and 6.44). Nor does such a comma bear any syntactic relation to the surrounding text. The fact that titles of works are usually cordoned off from the surrounding text by italics or quotation marks supports this logic.
If you’re still not convinced, and if dropping the first comma isn’t an option (some companies will insist), follow the logic of titles of works and omit the second comma. Any logic, as long as you adhere to it consistently, is better than none.