Some people prefer to capitalize each word of a title. But, if you need to learn the rules of the “up and down” style of titles, here is a guide.
Section 8.157 of The Chicago Manual of Style lays out rules:
- Capitalize first and last words
- Capitalize nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs
- Lowercase articles the, a, and an
- Lowercase prepositions (of, in, to, for, with, on, at, over, between, around, etc.)
- Lowercase conjunctions and, but, for, or, and nor
Note: These are only the basic rules. However, these are likely the only ones you’ll need.
Preposition list: For a longer list of English prepositions, click here.
Let’s run through some examples. I’ll explain why I capitalized or lowercased each word.
1. Vampires Suck Blood from a Young Woman.
- I capitalized Vampires and Woman because they are the first and last words. (rule 1)
- I capitalized Suck because it’s a verb. (rule 2)
- I capitalized Young because it’s an adjective. (rule 2)
- I lowercased a because it’s an article. (rule 3)
- I lowercased from because it’s a preposition. (rule 4)
2. The Mating Habits of Mutants
- I capitalized The and Mutants because they are the first and last words. (rule 1)
- I capitalized Mating it’s an adjective. (rule 2)
- I capitalized Habits because it’s a noun. (rule 2)
- I lowercased of because it’s a preposition. (rule 4)
3. The Unicorn Who Forgot His Knife
- I capitalized The and Knife because they are the first and last words. (rule 1)
- I capitalized Unicorn because it’s a noun. (rule 2)
- I capitalized Forgot because it’s a verb. (rule 2)
- I capitalized Who and His because they are pronouns. (rule 2)
4. Four Snakes and Rats Played Nicely Together
- I capitalized Four and Together because they are the first and last words. (rule 1)
- I capitalized Snakes and Rats because they’re nouns. (rule 2)
- I capitalized Played because it’s a verb. (rule 2)
- I capitalized Nicely because it’s an adverb. (rule 2)
- I lowercased and because it’s a conjunction. (rule 5)
Test your skills with a quiz. Below you will see titles with every word lowercased. Rewrite each title with the correct words capitalized. The answers are below.
1. young boy caught farting in class
2. crazy cat and the dumb dog
3. swarm of grandmothers brazenly pinch cheeks at noon
4. ten clouds turn pink
5. the curious way the sea monster eats her food in the ocean
Answers: 1. Young Boy Caught Farting in Class 2. Crazy Cat and the Dumb Dog 3. Swarm of Grandmothers Brazenly Pinch Cheeks at Noon 4. Ten Clouds Turn Pink 5. The Curious Way the Sea Monster Eats Her Food in the Ocean
15 thoughts on “Capitalizing Titles of Works”
One common mistake I see is failing to capitalize short words like “is” and “it.” I think people believe they shouldn’t be capitalized because of their length and fail to remember that all verbs and pronouns should be capitalized.
I didn’t know the rule about capping up the last word, would have kept it down if a preposition. Cheers for the info.
That’s what the style guide commonly used in the U.S. for books says. I could see it being different in other places.
Nicely done, GP. One question: is ‘lowercased’ a verb? 😉
You will certainly enjoy EATS SHOOTS & LEAVES by Lynn Truss. By the way, because I cannot underline book title here I capitalize all letters rather that use quotation marks for book.
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