Grammar Challenge #5


Which of the following is correct? 

A. Louisa May Alcott's novel "Little Women" is a classic.

B. Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women is a classic.

C. Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women is a classic.

D. Louisa May Alcott's novel, "Little Women," is a classic.

E. Louisa May Alcott's novel, Little Women, is a classic.

F. Louisa May Alcott's novel, Little Women, is a classic.


Answer and Explanation

In print publications, book titles are indicated with italics. Underlining is equivalent to italicizing, so when we hand-write book titles, we would normally underline rather than attempt to italicize.

Titles of shorter works, such as short stories, essays, lyric poems, songs, and book chapters are indicated with quotation marks. Since Little Women is a novel, italics are required.

The comma question is a bit more difficult. Little Women is an appositive here -- it restates and clarifies the word novel. But not all appositives require being set off with commas -- only nonessential ones do. In this sentence, Little Women could only be considered nonessential if Alcott had only written one novel. It would then be possible to omit the title, since "Louisa May Alcott's novel" would clearly refer to it. But she wrote several novels. The title is therefore necessary for the sentence to make sense to the reader.

To indicate that the appositive is essential, leave out the commas.

This is the reason why I would write, "My wife, Melanie, is awesome" (I have only one wife--commas needed), but "My daughter Taylor is in college" (I have more than one daughter--no commas).

The correct answer is therefore B.

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