Is “Be” Capitalized in a Title?

Determining whether or not to capitalize words in titles can be tricky. If you choose to simply look at the various titles of articles and publications for guidance, you are likely to discover inconsistencies among them. This is not always a typo or due to ignorance of the rules. There are numerous accepted writing styles that vary among institutions and publications, meaning that standards of capitalization that are correct in one place may be incorrect in others.

Is the Word “Be” Capitalized?

Yet there is broad agreement on several points, and among them is the question of whether the word be should be capitalized in a title. The short answer is: yes, the word be should always be capitalized when used in a title. To understand why this is so, one need only review the pertinent rules as presented in the most widely adopted style manuals.

The Associated Press Stylebook, the Chicago Manual of Style, and the Modern Language Association, or MLA, Handbook govern the majority of professional written content. They dictate the styles of news articles, books and other publications, and research papers respectively. In all of these books, the following rule is standard: Capitalize adjectives, adverbs, nouns, pronouns, and verbs.

That rule is the most relevant here, because the word be is a verb. More precisely, to be is considered a state of being verb. Verbs describe actions, and in the case of to be, the action is existing.

Remembering the above rule will serve you well, but there is a more comprehensive rule that answers the question of which words to capitalize with a short list of words that should always be lowercase. This comes to us courtesy of the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual, and advises the following: Capitalize all words in titles of publications and documents, except a, an, the, at, by, for, in, of, on, to, up, and, as, but, or, and nor.

Regardless of which of the rules or styles among those above you choose to follow, capitalizing the word be in titles is the correct and proper approach.


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