Title Capitalization

 In Learn English

The rules regarding title capitalization vary depending on which style guide you use—or are expected to follow.  Let’s talk about the common ground the more popular guides share.

  1. Capitalize the first word of the title
  2. Capitalize all proper nouns

Yep, that’s it, that’s all the most used style guides have in common when it comes to title capitalization!

To Capitalize or Not to Capitalize

 

Title capitalization falls into 2 categories, ‘sentence style’, or ‘headline style’.  The 4 most accepted style guides—in no particular order—are…

  1. The Oxford Style Manual
  2. Associated Press Stylebook
  3. The Elements of Style
  4. The Chicago Manual of Style

Each of the 4 style guides has its own set of rules regarding title capitalization.

The Oxford Style Manual follows a ‘headline style’.

You Capitalize the first word of a title, and ALL words within the title EXCEPT for: articles, conjunctions, and prepositions.

For the purposes of example let’s pretend that this is MY title.

A Visit from St. Nicholas: The Night before Christmas

*note, “the” is an article, but is capitalized here because subtitles are titled in the way they are originally printed

Associated Press Stylebook follows a ‘headline style’ too.

You capitalize the first AND last word of a title (regardless of what the last word is), and ALL words 4 letters or longer.  DO NOT capitalize articles, conjunctions, or prepositions—unless the preposition is 4 or more letters.

A Visit From St. Nicholas: The Night Before Christmas

*again, “the” is an exception to the articles rule because that is the way the subtitle originally appears

The Elements of Style follows a ‘sentence style’.

You capitalize JUST the first word of a title, and all proper nouns, everything else is lower case.

A visit from St. Nicholas: The night before Christmas

*”the” is capitalized because it is the first word of the subtitle

The Chicago Manual of Style follows a ‘headline style’.

You capitalize the first AND last word of a title, and ALL nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinate conjunctions (go here to view a list of subordinate conjunctions).  DO NOT capitalize articles, primary conjunctions, or prepositions.

A Visit from St. Nicholas: The Night before Christmas

*yet again! “the” is capitalized because it heads up the subtitle

Use the style guide that best reflects your writing style, or the style guide you are required to useJ, and be consistent!  Mixing and matching style guide choices isn’t a good look on the page.

Take advantage of the awesome ‘title capitalization’ sites to double check your writing—here, and here are 2 great ones.

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