Title Capitalization Rules

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Knowing which words to capitalize in a title can be hard. There are several different style guides in English that all have slightly different rules for title capitalization. Understanding what to capitalize in a title is important to make sure that your titles and headlines look correct. In this guide, we’ll explain the differences between the major styles and what words you should and shouldn’t capitalize.

The Four Major Title Capitalization Style Guides

First, it is important to note that there are four main title capitalization styles:

  • Chicago style
  • APA style
    MLA style
  • AP style

Each of these capitalization styles has slightly different rules for which words are capitalized and each of these styles can be written using title case capitalization or sentence case capitalization. We’ll get to the nuances of each below.

The Easiest Way to Capitalize Your Titles With the Correct Rules

Before we get into the details of each type of title capitalization style, we highly recommend that you check out our free title capitalization tool. All you have to do is select whether you want title case or sentence case, and then select which style guide you want. It automatically capitalizes your title with the right rules according to style guide you selected. Watch the video below to learn more.

Title Case Capitalization vs. Sentence Case Capitalization

There are two main types of title capitalization methods that are common between all the title capitalization styles. Title case capitalization is the most commonly used title capitalization style used in titles and sentence case capitalization is commonly used when writing long-form content as well as in many journalism headlines.

Title Case Capitalization

In general, the following capitalization rules apply across the four styles in title case:

  • Capitalize the first word in the title
  • Capitalize the last word in the title
  • Capitalize the important words in the title

Important words in that last bullet generally refer to:

  • Adjectives (tiny, large, etc.)
  • Adverbs (quietly, smoothly, etc.)
  • Nouns (tablet, kitchen, book)
  • Pronouns (they, she, he)
  • Subordinating conjunctions (when fewer than 5 letters)
  • Verbs (write, type, create)

Title case is the most common title capitalization for book titles, headlines, articles titles, etc. When multiple letters in a title need to be capitalized, use title case capitalization.

Our title capitalization tool will automatically capitalize your titles according to these rules.

Words Not Capitalized in Title Case

While the above words are generally capitalized in titles regardless of style, there are some words that are generally not capitalized when using title case. These include short words and conjunctions:

  • Articles (a, an, the)
  • Coordinating Conjunctions (and, but, for)
  • Short (fewer than 5 letters)
  • Prepositions (at, by, from, etc.)

What Is Sentence Case?

The other major type of title capitalization standard is sentence case. Sentence case simply means you capitalize the first letter of a sentence, proper nouns, and nothing else as opposed to capitalizing almost every first letter in title case. It is the same across all of the four styles.

For more specific title capitalization rules, you can see the following sections which cover each style of title capitalization rules or check out our FAQs for common capitalization questions.

Title Capitalization Rules by Style

Chicago Manual of Style Capitalization Rules

Chicago Style is one of the most used and respected headline capitalization methods used in journalism. The rules are fairly standard for title case:

  1. Capitalize the first and the last word.
  2. Capitalize nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinate conjunctions.
  3. Lowercase articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions, and prepositions.
  4. Lowercase the ‘to’ in an infinitive (I want to play guitar).

APA Style Capitalization Rules

Making sure you have the right capitalization for APA headings is crucial for scholarly articles. The following rules apply to APA headline capitalization and title capitalization:

  1. Capitalize the first word of the title/heading and of any subtitle/subheading
  2. Capitalize all major words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns) in the title/heading, including the second part of hyphenated major words (e.g., Self-Report not Self-report)
  3. Capitalize all words of four letters or more.

MLA Style Capitalization Rules

Making sure you have the right capitalization for MLA headings is crucial for scholarly articles. The following rules apply to MLA headings:

  1. Capitalize the first word of the title/heading and of any subtitle/subheading
  2. Capitalize all major words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns) in the title/heading, including the second part of hyphenated major words (e.g., Self-Report not Self-report)
  3. Capitalize all words of four letters or more.

AP Style Capitalization Rules

AP style capitalization is mainly used by writers for the Associated Press but is also used widely throughout journalism. The capitalization rules are as follow:

  1. Capitalize words with three or more letters.
  2. Capitalize the first and the last word.
  3. Capitalize nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinate conjunctions.
  4. Lowercase articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions, and prepositions.
  5. Lowercase the ‘to’ in an infinitive (I want to play guitar).

NY Times Style Capitalization Rules

NY Times style capitalization is mainly used by writers for the NY Times but is also used widely throughout journalism. The capitalization rules are as follow:

  1. Capitalize major words, e.g. nouns, pronouns, verbs.
  2. Capitalize the first and the last word.
  3. Capitalize nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinate conjunctions.
  4. Lowercase articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions, and prepositions.

Wikipedia Style Capitalization Rules

Wikipedia editors must follow certain capitalization rules for any posts to Wikipedia. The capitalization rules are as follow:

  1. Capitalize major words, e.g. nouns, pronouns, verbs.
  2. Capitalize the first and the last word.
  3. Capitalize nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinate conjunctions.
  4. Lowercase indefinite and definite articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions, and prepositions.
  5. Prepositions that contain five letters or more.
  6. The word “to” in infinitives.

Capitalize My Title is a dynamic title capitalization tool used to make sure your titles or headlines use proper capitalization rules according to various style guides include APA, AP, MLA, and Chicago. It also counts your words and checks for grammar issues.

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