Capitalization Rules in Titles

The general rule is to capitalize the first, last and any important words in a title, which is known as Title Case or Headline Style. According to The U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual, “capitalize all words in titles of publications and documents, except a, an, the, at, by, for, in, of, on, to, up, and, as, but, it, or, and nor.” Whichever capitalization rule you choose, it has to be consistent throughout your article or book.

Do Capitalize

The following parts of speech are capitalized in titles:

  • Nouns (e.g., book)
  • Adjectives (e.g., big)
  • Verbs (e.g., write)
  • Adverbs (e.g., rapidly)
  • Pronouns (e.g., he, she, it)
  • Subordinating conjunctions (e.g., as, because, that)

Do Not Capitalize

Really “short” words, those with less than five letters, are generally lowercase in titles, unless they are the first or last words in a title:

  • Articles: a, an, the
  • Coordinating Conjunctions: and, but, or, for, nor
  • Prepositions (fewer than five letters): on, at, to, from, by

Further Title Capitalization Rules

Sentence Case

Some writers or publishers use sentence case for titles where the title is written as if it was a sentence, with only the first letter (and proper nouns) capitalized. For example: New best seller on web design

Advanced Rules

  • Hyphenated compound words (e.g., Standard-Compliant Websites) and open compounds (e.g., standards compliance)
  • The first word following a colon (e.g., Web Standards: Mastering HTML5, CSS3, and XML)
  • Prepositions belong to a phrasal verb (e.g., How to Improve Web Accessibility)