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1:The 1987 movie, Innerspace, was pure science fiction.


Would the comma placement here suggest this was the only movie of that year and is it still in a correct appositive structure if the information is removed leaving a grammatically correct yet meaningless sentence out of context?
The 1987 movie was pure science fiction.

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    It would require a very contrived context to justify the commas in your example. Specifically, a context where there's no more than one movie per year. Perhaps the writer is discussing "movies made by director Joe Dante", and the two preceding paragraphs were about his 1984 movie Gremlins and his 1985 movie Explorers. In that case, comma-delimited Innerspace in your example is perfectly valid (I forget the technical term for such repetition, as in The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, might like to see has his name used like that in this very sentence). Sep 26, 2021 at 18:23
  • ...It would require an even more contrived context to justify those commas if we removed the date. (It could certainly be done, but I leave that as an exercise for the reader! :) Sep 26, 2021 at 18:26
  • The 1987 movie "Innerspace"
    – Lambie
    Dec 6, 2023 at 16:42

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The commas in that sentence are parenthetical commas. They indicate that whatever is between them is superfluous information that is not strictly necessary—you could remove the parenthetical content and the sentence would still be grammatically correct and would still make sense logically.

In this example there is nothing wrong with the grammar of the sentence as such, whether with or without the parenthetical clause , Innerspace,. But as Fumble pointed out in the comments, the sentence is incorrect because it implies that there was only one movie produced anywhere by anyone in 1987. This is obviously untrue.

...except, as they said, if you have introduced two or more movies earlier in the text and are now comparing "the 1987 movie" with "the 1995 movie" (for example). Then it would be acceptable.


Parenthetical clauses can be punctuated with pairs of commas, em-dashes, or parentheses.

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  • The commas are utterly wrong. A supplementary (non-restrictive) appositive NP is quite wrong here.
    – BillJ
    Sep 26, 2021 at 19:19

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