“If” is one of those awkward little words which crop up in our writing all the time but of which it is never entirely clear what the best and most grammatical use is. When you put it in the title, does it need a capital letter?
Is the Word “If” Capitalized in a Title?
We already know that both the first and last words in a title should always be capitalized, so if “if” appears in either of those positions then look no further- you’ve got your answer. But what if it’s buried in the middle of the title? Well, it’s a subordinate conjunction, and they are typically capitalized. Other examples of subordinate conjunctions are after, though, whereas, until, therefore etc. In titles, you will always find these capitalized. Their function is to establish the causal or temporal relationship between two separate ideas in a sentence. In other words, you will typically find the clause, then the subordinate conjunction, then a second clause.
Another frequent cause of confusion is the similarity between “if” and “of”. They are easy to mix up at first glance, but which one needs the capital letter? And when they both appear in the same title, it can be a little jarring to look at when you notice one is capitalized while the other isn’t. But “of” is a preposition, and they are never, ever capitalized unless they exceed five letters in length.
Examples in Movie Titles
Just in case you don’t believe me, take a look at these examples: which looks better, Catch Me If You Can or Catch Me if You Can? Both are recognizable as the title of the hit movie, but only one is grammatically correct. There is a U2 song called “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight”- wouldn’t it look strange if that “if” in the middle was not capitalized?