Title capitalisation can be a little tricky. Some people capitalise every word, some people capitalise only the first word and proper nouns, and some people capitalise just some words. So who is correct?
Well, it depends what you are writing. If you are writing for the web, then there is some more flexibility on title capitalisation. For instance, you might see a title written:
This is the first time this boy saw snow – and his reaction is HILARIOUS
But, if you are not looking to add “shock-value” to your title, then you should choose a style to follow and stick to it – the Associated Press (AP) Style or The Chicago Manual of Style, for instance.
For our blog, you’ll see that only the first letter of the titles is capitalised unless the title contains a proper noun which should be capitalised – this is known as “sentence case’.
This, however, may not be suitable for other forms of writing which demand a “title case”. The AP Style, The Chicago Manual of Style and other style guides have their own rules for title case, but there are some variations between them. So, to simplify things, below is a set of general title case rules you can easily follow for title capitalisation.
Rule 1: DO capitalise the first and last words, whatever the word
Rule 2: DO capitalise all words with 4 or more letters, whatever the word
Rule 3: DO capitalise nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs, whatever the length (e.g. “am” is a verb so should be capitalised even though it’s only two letters)
Rule 4: DO capitalise subordinating conjunctions, whatever the length (e.g. because, although, as, if, since, while, etc.)
Rule 5: DON’T capitalise prepositions with 3 letters or less (e.g. on, off, for, etc.) or coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet – that’s all of them)
Rule 6: DO capitalise prepositions if they part of a phrasal verb (e.g. 5 Ways to Get On With Your Boss)
Rule 7: DON’T capitalise articles (a, an, the)
Rule 8: DON’T capitalise “to” in infinitives (e.g. How to Retire Before You Are 40)
Rule 9: DO capitalise all the elements of a hyphenated word except for prepositions with 3 letters or less, articles and coordinating conjunctions (e.g. Why Studying in Half-Hour Blocks Is Better for Your Brain, 5 Cost-Effective Ways to Insulate Your Home, Why You Should Never Do Cash-in-Hand Work, See What This Have-a-Go Hero Did)
However, if you have made a phrasal verb into a noun (for which a hyphen is needed), the short preposition should be capitalised (e.g. When to Know Your Car Is in Need of a Tune-Up, 5 Best Morning Pick-Me-Ups)
Also, careful that some hyphenated words containing prepositions, such as “up-to-date”, are adjectives so “up” needs to be capitalised but “to” doesn’t (e.g. The Most Up-to-Date Smart Devices You Can Buy Today)
So, those are some general rules to follow for title capitalisation, or you can choose a particular style to follow, but beware that whichever you choose, your word processing software might not always agree with your choice!
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