Is is correct to write: 'Author Martin Amis describes...', or should we use the article 'the' in front of 'author'?


"The" is not required.

There are many examples where a profession is prefixed to a name. For example:

Driver Lewis Hamilton came in first once again.

However, I'm quite sure that it is context dependent. For example, let us say we are talking about your author describing a door.

Author Martin Amis describes the door as unbreakable.

is slightly different to

The author, Martin Amis, describes the door as unbreakable.

So pick whichever one you need.


Both are possible, but I think the difference is one of formality. Author Martin Amis might be found in a popular newspaper, but a piece of academic prose would be more likely to refer to the author Martin Amis, assuming it wasn’t enough simply to write his name alone.

  • I agree here, but Kate's point is valid. I'd not use 'The sheep Dolly' / 'Sheep Dolly' as an example because she's probably as much 'Dolly the Sheep' as Shaun is 'Shaun the Sheep' and Donald isn't 'Donald the Duck'. There seems to be a rule-of-thumb (I'm sure there are exceptions) that humans can take the article or leave it ((The) author Steven Goldin) except when it's a title (King John), animals need the article (The racehorse Arkle), and inanimates are mixed (Hurricane Sandy but The frigate 'Unicorn'). Proper names are part of the chaos: Lake Victoria, but the River Thames. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 30 '12 at 17:55
  • Thinking a little further - there seems to be a conferring of respect when the is used before a profession - the architect, Robert Sykes but dustman Robert Sykes. This is perhaps not the case with the outlaw Jesse James. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 1 '12 at 9:23
  • @Edwin Ashworth. It is possible to make mischief by playing around with articles in such cases, in a way that writers in ‘The Economist’ sometimes seem to do. They are capable of referring to ‘Edward Heath, a former prime minister’ (although not an authentic example). – Barrie England Dec 1 '12 at 9:30
  • There's a political protocol as well when it comes to whether an expression should be considered titular or in apposition. Princess X but Y, Princess ... . President A but Mr B. the Prime Minister. I think we had to call the Queen's late mum 'Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother' too. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 1 '12 at 21:37
  • @Edwin Ashworth. To the inner circle, she was always just Queen Elizabeth. Elizabeth II is The Queen, capital T. – Barrie England Dec 2 '12 at 7:46

It's actually a property of a word whether it can be used this way or not. Compare:

Author Kate Gregory recommends C++ AMP because ...


Sheep Dolly was cloned...

Author can be anarthrous and sheep can't. Just about every profession a person can hold is ok to use without "the" and as for all the other nouns in English, I don't think there's really a rule. Off the top of my head, all the examples I can find are nouns describing something a person is. I mean that nouns like table, blizzard, whisper, and so on can't be used like this, while schoolboy, housewife, candidate, and so on all can. But I'm not sure that's a rule, it might just be that my imaginary sentence generator is slow this morning.


Hurricane Sandy swept into New York

Not sure why that's ok and Sheep Dolly isn't.

  • 1
    'Hurricane Sandy swept into New York' is a headline, and articles are frequently dropped in headlines. If Sheep Dolly appeared in a headline it, too, could be anarthrous: 'Sheep Dolly Dies'. – Barrie England Nov 30 '12 at 16:45
  • Agreed that both headlines and newspaper-quoting style are muddying my "sounds right" sense, but "According to X, something" or "As far as X is concerned, something" both feel ok with Profession Name and Hurricane Sandy, but wrong with Sheep Dolly. – Kate Gregory Nov 30 '12 at 16:48
  • 'Hurricane Sandy swept into New York' is the way you'd probably say it in ordinary conversation, as well as being headlinese - although I'd expect sweeps. Ok, in conversation, you might well change 'swept into' to reached or hit, but that's non-germane. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 30 '12 at 17:58

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