Is there a preferred version in American English?

  • Book Title by John Doe

  • Book Title of John Doe

  • John Doe's Book Title

Usually, in different lists of writings, I see "by," but on the other hand, when people talk about the volume containing all the plays and poems by William Shakespeare, it seems they usually use "of":

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare is the standard name given to any volume containing all the plays and poems of William Shakespeare. -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complete_Works_of_Shakespeare

I know there is a similar question that was asked 7 years ago, but that question and the answer to it are more about removing the ambiguity, whereas my question is more about which version is better from the "point of view" of tradition, style, and so on.

  • 2
    I assume you meant to include of in #2, since that's what you have in the question title, so I edited it in. But just as we say a book of his (never a book of him), we would normally use a "double possessive" (both of AND Saxon genitive 's) construction - That's a book of John Doe's. Jun 13, 2023 at 12:24
  • 1
    ...see this usage chart showing the double possessive with a play of Shakespeare / 's Jun 13, 2023 at 12:29
  • 1
    "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare" as you suggest is a special case - we commonly use "of" when referring to a subset of works such as "the early plays of Shakespeare" or indeed to all the works taken together: "the oeuvre of Shakespeare". Hence the standard name for a collection of his plays (or his plays and poetry) is "The Complete Works of Shakespeare", just as the Christian scripture is called "The Bible" (from the Greek for "book(s)"). But it's less common to say "The Taming of the Shrew of Shakespeare"
    – Stuart F
    Jun 13, 2023 at 16:06

1 Answer 1


To my ear, the first and third are both OK, the second is off.

The choice between the first and third will depend a bit on the surrounding text, but, in most circumstances, I think either is acceptable. That is:

Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon is one of my favorite novels.


Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson is one of my favorite novels.

The middle choice looks like some sort of citation, but with something missing. Still, there are a bazillion styles for citation and this might match one. But it looks wrong for regular text.

  • 1
    I'm not American, but I'm a former librarian, and would say that it depends on context. Referring to a well-known author, you might speak of "Stephen King's The Shining" - if they are not famous, you might be more likely to say "I'm reading The history of Anytown by John Doe". Yes, of is more often used for collections - Essays of Elia - Poetic works of Tennyson Jun 13, 2023 at 12:35
  • 2
    I think by depend a bit on the surrounding text what you mean is Use format #1 if the primary focus is the book, rather than the author. Use format #3 if your focus is the author. Jun 13, 2023 at 12:35

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