How to Capitalize Titles

OCTOBER 19, 2017 BY ARLENE MILLER

4 COMMENTS

Capitalizing titles can be a little confusing because there are actually many ways to do it, depending on what style you are following. By “titles,” we mean book titles, movie titles, book chapter titles, chapter headings, newspaper headlines, and other such things. Unless you need to follow a specific style, you can do it any way you choose, but — as in all things grammarish — be consistent within the same book or piece of writing. 

Most Common Way

  1. Here is the most common way of capitalizing titles — and the one you probably learned in school. It is still a safe bet. 
  • Capitalize the first and last words of a heading or title no matter what they are.
  • Do not capitalize a, an, and the.
  • Do not capitalize the conjunctions and, but, for, nor, or, so, or yet. (If so or yet is being used as an adverb, capitalize it.)
  • Do not capitalize prepositions such as up, down, in, out, across, between, with, by, along, and the other zillion.
  • Capitalize everything else, which includes nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and interjections. Prepositions used as adverbs are capitalized.

Here are some examples of that style:

  • The Red Fox and the Brown Bear Are Here
  • The Little Dog Is So Tired, so He Will Take a Nap (first so is an adverb)
  • The Cat Looked Up As the Dog Raced down the Stairs (first up is an adverb)

Common and Very Similar to the First Way

A very similar style, and the one I learned, is that any word more than four letters long is capitalized, even if it is a preposition. That would mean words like Between, Across, Along, and Under would be capitalized. This is the way I always do it.

And Also Very Similar to the First Way

It is the Chicago Manual of Style method and is exactly like the first way except Yet and So would be capitalized, probably because sometimes they are adverbs and sometimes they are conjunctions, and the “powers that be” probably thought people would get confused, so they decided to capitalize them either way.

Confused yet?  I think you will be safe if you follow this. To sum it up:

  • Capitalize the first and last words of any title or heading.
  • Capitalize all the nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.
  • Don’t capitalize a, an, or the unless it is the first or last word of the title.
  • Don’t capitalize the conjunctions and, or, nor, for, yet, so, but.
  • Don’t capitalize prepositions unless they are longer than four letters. Then you decide.

If you aren’t real up to snuff on which parts of speech are which, capitalize all the important words and all the words longer than four letters.

HINT!!!!! PLEASE remember that the the following words are verbs and are capitalized in titles: Is, Am,  Are, Was, Were, Have Been, Be, Will Be, Has Been.

Other Styles

Other styles that are easier have come into use. They are not as commonly accepted, so I might stick with the above suggestions for something formal. But here are some other title styles:

  • Sentence Style: Used by the Associated Press and some newspapers and online newspapers. Just like in a sentence, you capitalize the first word and any other words that would ordinarily be capitalized, in other words, proper nouns and proper adjectives.
  • Every Word: Some online publications simply capitalize the first letter of every word in the title.
  • If you have a short title, and not many titles on a page, you could try capitalizing every letter in the title, especially perhaps on a website.
  • Or, taking a little different route than the previous one, you could capitalize nothing at all in the title. If you have all the say and this is your creation, be my guest. 

ABOVE ALL, BE CONSISTENT!