Q. Do you place a comma between a book or article title and the word “by”? For example: “Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, was published in 1813.” Some editors delete those commas, but to me they make sense. The author’s name often isn’t needed to identify the work, and the pause there feels natural to me. Please guide me with your editorial wisdom.
A. Commas are correct unless an author’s name is being used restrictively, as it is in both instances in the second of the following two examples:
Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens, has gone through many printings.
Now that I’ve finally managed to read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, I’m ready to tackle Great Expectations by Kathy Acker.
In the first example, the phrase “by Charles Dickens” is nonrestrictive; omitting it wouldn’t change the meaning of the sentence (though not all readers will know who wrote Great Expectations). In the second example, omitting the authors’ names would obscure the intended meaning.
For more on the use of commas relative to restrictive and nonrestrictive phrases and clauses, see CMOS 6.27–29.