I should be able to answer this myself but I’ve been reading staggeringly boring material for about 10 hours straight and am barely able to think anymore.
I’m proofreading an otherwise formal brochure of Very Important Speaker biographies for a Very Large Institution’s upcoming conference. In one, the Very Important Speaker is John Smith, Jr. His dad, naturally, is John Smith, Sr. Easy so far.
The problem occurs where, in one section, the writer starts getting informal and begins referring to the speaker and his father in the same paragraph by their first names. Hypothetical example (bolding mine):
The Smiths now span three generations, with five adults: In addition to John, Sr., there is his wife, Sally; their three children, John, Jr., Mary and Fred; and the younger John’s son, Mark.
John, Jr. is just as industrious as his father. Meanwhile, John, Sr. has won awards for being generally awesome. John, Jr. married Theresa Jones and upon his marriage was given $1 million by John, Sr. as an incentive to begin his charitable foundation.
(No, this isn’t the actual text, but it’s relatively close. And–I cannot stress this enough–I am forbidden to recast the sentence. Text is sacrosanct since it comes directly from the Very Important speakers, praise be unto them. So I can’t wiggle out of this by, for example, changing “John., Jr. married Theresa” to “His son married Theresa.” Such is the life in dealing with big institutions and bigger egos.)
My question is: WTF do I do here? It’s especially bad in the second paragraph, when the writer uses a comma before the “Jr.” and “Sr.” but not after. It looks horrible and I’ve never come across this problem before. Sure, in informal text or fiction dialogue someone might refer to a character as “Jack Junior” (usually the “junior” is spelled out with no comma) but in this context I’m uncertain if this ugliness is correct or not.
In all my usual style manuals/bibles, such as the organization’s own private style guide, Chicago Manual of Style, AP or even APA style, I’ve only found references to the standard questions: whether to use commas both before and after the “Jr.” after last names, or what to do when a name is listed with the last name first (e.g., “Smith., John., Sr.”). But I’m not finding anything with just a first name usage.