Friday, March 23, 2012

It's Not Complicated

This is an advertisement for an album by a Florida-based band called A Day to Remember. Songs on the 2010 album include "It's Complicated," "Better Off This Way," "Out of Time" and "All I Want."

All I want is to know why a comma has been placed after the word album.

"What Separates Me From You" is an essential, or restrictive, phrase — a group of words critical to the reader's understanding of the sentence. Their absence would change the meaning of the sentence and lead to misinterpretation. Those five words must be included if the reader is to know which album is meant. As such, it is an essential phrase and is not set off from the rest of the sentence by a comma.

Let's try a couple of examples.

I am going to purchase the award-winning album Thriller. (No comma, because many albums have won awards, and without the name of the album the reader would not know which album was meant.)

I am going to purchase Def Leppard's 1987 album, Hysteria. (Only one Def Leppard album came out in 1987. The name is informative, but even without it no other album could be meant.)

Does it make sense now, or is it complicated?


  1. I think I would make that comma mistake too. I would want to somehow seperate the words leading up to the album title from the title itself. I'm also not sure when to use quotation marks or not. You used them on the four song titles above but not the album names. How does that work?

    1. As an undergrad, I was taught Associated Press (AP) style. For the most part, it’s what I stick with today. According to AP style, composition titles (play titles, song titles, television program titles, etc.) should have quotation marks around them. This isn’t a black-and-white issue. It’s often about in-house style rules and/or personal preference. Style choices can be different. I get that. What I don’t get is inconsistently applying style. If, for example, a writer puts album names in quotes, he should put EVERY album reference in quotes. Don’t put some in quotes and some in italics. It’s the inconsistency that drives me to a state of, well, “Hysteria.” (Use quote marks when italic type isn’t available.) For another take on this subject, check out this link: