5

I'm thinking about making a headline. I know you would use a comma here:

Professor Bill Bick then told me, "There will be more jobs when the economy recovers."

What about here?

Read Professor Bill Bick's article, "Why There Will be More Jobs When the Economy Recovers."

Are commas used before article titles that are quoted?

  • +1 Good question. I have seen a comma used in such a place, though it was unnecessary. In fact, there are situations where a comma there would create plenty of confusion, if not a change of meaning itself. Maybe it is advisable to avoid it at all times. – Kris Mar 2 '12 at 4:11
2

At this website, I found the following guidance:

When you are explaining a particular word or phrase by using quotations around it, or identifying the name of a book, song or movie, you will not necessarily need to use a comma before the item. In these cases, the quotations are used to support the primary meaning of the sentence. For example:

  The movie “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” is still one of my all-time favorites!

Interestingly enough, the rule is not definitive - "will not necessarily need" implies it wouldn't necessarily be improper to use the comma, if you felt it would be beneficial.

Incidentally, most of the comma guidance I perused - including guidance on ELU - indicated that the comma in your first example would indeed be proper, as you stated.

1

There is no need for the comma in either case.

  • 3
    I wonder if the first might be a British English thing. In American English, in my experience, you would never see the first without a comma preceding it. – Lynn Mar 1 '12 at 22:05
  • +1 Now it is settled. I would like to quote your answer as the reference in future. – Kris Mar 2 '12 at 4:13
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In at least some style guides, the appropriateness of including a comma before the article title hinges on whether the title is functioning as an appositive or not.

If (to take your example) Professor Bill Bick has published only one article, then the particular name of the article functions as an appositive in the sentence: by referring to it as "Bill Bick's article, you've already thoroughly identified it because only one article meets the criterion "Bill Bick's article." Therefore, when you include the title in that situation, it functions as an appositive (a descriptive equivalent of the word or phrase already given), and the style guides advise you to make this clear by setting the title off with a comma:

Read Professor Bill Bick's article, "Why There Will be More Jobs When the Economy Recovers."

But if the professor has written more than one article in his career, then including the particular title of the one that you have in mind in your sentence becomes crucial for identifying what article you're talking about. The title doesn't function as a comma, and there should be no comma:

Read Professor Bill Bick's article "Why There Will be More Jobs When the Economy Recovers."

That, at any rate, is the position that The Chicago Manual of Style, sixteenth edition (2010) takes. Here is its discussion under the general heading "Commas with Appositives":

6.23 Restrictive and nonrestrictive appositives. A word, abbreviation, phrase, or clause that is in apposition to a noun (i.e. provides an explanatory equivalent) is normally set off by commas if it is nonrestrictive—that is, if it can be omitted without obscuring the identity of the noun to which it refers.

[Relevant example:] K. Lester's only collection of poems, An Apocryphal Miscellany, first appeared as a series of monographs.

If, however, the word or phrase is restrictive—that is, provides essential information about the noun (or nouns) to which it refers—no comma should appear.

[Relevant example:] O'Neill's play The Hairy Ape was being revived. {O'Neill wrote a number of plays.}

Allan Siegal & William Connolly, The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, revised and expanded edition (1999) adopts a similar approach in an example whose focus is elsewhere:

quotation marks. ...

If an expression in a foreign language carries quotation marks, so should any parenthetical translation: the papal blessing "Urbi et Orbi" ("To the City and to the World").

In this example, there is no comma after blessing because there are numerous papal blessings, not just "Urbi et Orbi."

And Joseph Gibaldi, MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, second edition (1998) offers a similarly tangential endorsement of the same principle:

7.4.4 Citing a Work Listed by Title

[Example:] The classical Greek tragedy Medea, one of the most successful Broadway plays of the 1990s, made a lasting impression on me.

The edition of the MLA Style Manual containing the sentence quoted above actually underlines "Medea" rather than italicizing it—but as far as I know, EL&U's formatting options don't include underlines. In any event, there is no comma before Medea because Medea doesn't function as an appositive in the sentence—and that's because Medea isn't the only "classical Greek tragedy."

  • This is the right answer – Stu W Dec 16 '16 at 2:41
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It also depends on if you are following the APA or MLA style guide. I think they are opposed on issues like this.

  • Your answer would be stronger of you cited the relevant guideline or rule from the style guides you mention (or others). Please consider doing so. – Sven Yargs Dec 15 '16 at 2:45
-1

Yes, you do need commas in both instances. Hope I helped!

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