Friday, July 13, 2012

Tricks of the Trade: Capitalizations in Titles


by Jill Williamson

The following rules on capitalizing titles come from The Chicago Manual of Style, which is the reference used by editors and copyeditors in the publishing industry. For titles of books, chapters, songs, and poems, the rules are:

Always capitalize:
1. The first and the last word in the title.
2. All nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.
3. Subordinate conjunctions (as, if, when, so, because, that, although). Ex: She’s So Unusual
4. The first world following a colon or dash. Ex: Replication: The Jason Experiment

Always lowercase:
1. Articles (a, an, the) except when it’s the first or last word of the title
2. Coordinate conjunctions (and, but, for, or, nor)
3. Prepositions (through, up, down, on, by, in, of, to, etc.)
4. The words “to” and “as” should always be lowercase unless they are the first or last word in the title, unless “as” is a subordinate conjunction (Ex: For As Long As We Both Shall Live), or unless “to” is used in a verb phrase (Ex: To Be or Not To Be).

This can be really tricky as many words fall into different categories, and I often have to refer to these rules again and go looking up the duty each word is performing or what a coordinate conjunctions or a subordinate conjunction is to remember. But these are the rules. There are more exceptions, too. But I won’t fry your brain further today.


Have a tricky title? Share it with us.

22 comments:

  1. Thank you for the helpful post! Just one question: Does the word "from" get capitalized in a title?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "From" is a preposition, so unless it was the first or last word, it should be lowercase.

      Delete
  2. Am I spelling this correctly? More Than This

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, Alyson... I'm not an expert in these matters, but it seems to me that "than" in this title is being used as a subordinating conjunction. And my list says to capitalize those, so I think you have it correct. Tricky one, when a word can have different duties in sentences.

      Delete
  3. "Anomaly." Haha...that was not hard. :D A more difficult one for me is "Harder than you Might Imagine." "Harder than You Might Imagine....Harder than you might Imagine..." ??? I just am not sure where to go with this one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. One word titles are nice and easy.

      On this next title, "you" is a pronoun, so that will be capitalized. And I believe that your "than" is also a subordinate conjunction, so it should also be capitalized. It's tricky. But that's what I think.

      Harder Than You Might Imagine.

      Delete
  4. Yes! Mine is easy: Relatively Normal. All right, I'm good. This made me kind of happy. Even though I don't need it now, this will be good to keep in mind as I write more novels (or at least, manuscripts).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's nice when they're easy titles, huh, Katia. Makes me want to name all my books something simple. Ha ha.

      Delete
  5. Ahhh, thank you for this post, Mrs. Williamson! It was a great idea, and something I've never really thought about before.

    I went through the list and I do believe my titles are capitalized right -- Silver Tears, Souvenirs of a Life Untold, Because I'm Irish. But this post is going to help me as I title more novels in the future! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Sky! It's always nice to know where to look this stuff up. And good job on your titles!

      Delete
  6. A title i am thinking of using my my Camp NaNoWriMo novel is "Maleficium" (meaning malicious or malevolent magic) but dictionary.com doesn't list it so I don't know how to pronounce it! xD

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL! Uh oh... Does any online dictionary list it?

      Delete
  7. Oh, by the way Mrs. Williamson, I just got Replication in the mail today and I'm reading it right now! I'm so excited!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Replies
    1. The Chicago Manual of Style is a "should have" for all writers, Becky!

      Delete
  9. That's interesting... I never knew the last word rule. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thank you for such an interesting post! These rules have confused me lately. I'll definitely be buying that book!

    Thanks again! :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. A title of a book I'm working on editing is "The world within" I know I'm supposed to capitalize the first and last word, and according to dictionary.com it says "world" is a a noun; do I capitalize it?

    ReplyDelete

Disagreement is welcome but rudeness is not. We ask that you please be considerate of each other. If we find your comment mean-spirited or inconsiderate, we reserve the right to remove it from our website.