If I were to try and describe a book called "Book", is this sentence grammatically correct?

The book Book by Joe Bob is set in...

I was told that this sentence is incorrect, that commas must surround the "Book" to create this:

The book, Book, by Joe Bob is set in...

I think that the first sentence is much more clear, while the second places more emphasis on "book". Am I correct in this thinking? If you could provide me with some source (website, rule name, etc.) that delves more into this matter, I would appreciate it.

  • What's the context? Is the book mentioned before this sentence and this sentence is going into more detail? Or is this the first mention, e.g. the beginning of a book review? The purpose of the first three words will determine which one it is.
    – user52889
    Jan 13, 2015 at 23:55

3 Answers 3


Commas have a particular grammatical purpose: a pair of commas separates parenthetical content from the main sentence. Normally there might be a slight pause at the commas when reading the sentence, but a slight pause when reading is not a reason to introduce a comma when the grammar does not require it.

The book title, Book, is not parenthetical content in your sentence; in my sentence here, it is. Here, it can be omitted without changing the sense, because all it does is provide additional information. In your sentence, it’s actually necessary information to identify the book and is not parenthetical at all.

Thus the title should not be set off with commas. It should, however, be set in italics.


The issue of restrictive/non-restrictive information does come into play here, and other answers give a good account of it. Here are a couple instances, though, of how each phrase could be grammatical.

1) The book The Odyssey by Homer is set against the backdrop of the Trojan War.

You do not need commas here because the book title is essential information. Homer wrote two books that are set against the backdrop of the Trojan War, and you need to specify the Odyssey to your audience.

2) The book, The Odyssey, by Homer is set in the ten years following the Trojan War during Odysseus's journey home.

You need commas here because this information is non-essential or parenthetical information. We know which book you're describing without you naming it. Thus, furnishing the title is something extra.

The second example, to me, sounds redundant out of context, but it mimics speech patterns that you might hear in a discussion on The Odyssey. In this sense, the commas serve as pauses around the book, providing emphasis. But only incidentally. Their purpose is to separate information that is not inextricably linked.


The commas in the second provides a natural pause that, for me, better demarcates the interjection formed by the title 'Book'.

That said, I feel that this is more a stylistic question in Modern English.

You may also want to consider expanding the sub-clause from 'Book' to 'called/named Book' to provide better clarification.

  • Get it out of your head, totally and completely, that commas serve the purpose of putting pauses in sentences. The only purpose of a comma in standard written English is to indicate the grammatical relationship between sentence elements. So lists, non-restrictive clauses, short introductory phrases, etc.
    – user87354
    Aug 6, 2014 at 0:23

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