A Complete Guide To Capitalizing Titles

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Which words get capitalized in titles and headers is something that commonly trips up writers of all skill levels and experience. In part, the questions around capitalization occur because they can change, depending on your client’s preferences or style guide. And even the major style guides, such as AP or Chicago Manual of Style, differ on this detail. Get tips below for learning to capitalize titles correctly and find answers to questions such as, “Do you capitalize the in a title?”

ALSO: 3 Style and Grammar Tips To Put You Ahead Of the Freelance Pack

Two Primary Capitalization Rules for Titles

For the most part, clients and style guides choose one of two overall rules for capping titles.

  • Title case. When following title case, capitalize the words in titles other than articles, conjunctions, prepositions that are four words or less. It’s the rule we’re using to capitalize the title and main subheadings in this article. The exact way you use title case capitalization depends on the style guide you’re using, but some examples are shown below.
    • What Is a German Shepherd?
    • 7 Ways You Can Alter the Course of History
    • Giant Rodents and Where You Can Find Them
  • Sentence case. When following sentence case, you capitalize only the first word in the title and any proper nouns. You typically do not use any ending punctuation unless the title or header is a question. We’re using sentence case in the H3 headers for the FAQ section below. Examples:
    • What are the biggest dog breeds?
    • Ways to reach your goals without stressing out
    • What you need to know about the American presidents

The above rules provide most of the guidance you need when deciding whether to capitalize a word in a title. However, it’s important to reference both the general style guide the client is using and any specific briefs from the client. APA, Chicago, MLA and AP all have their own quirks when it comes to these details, and some clients have requests such as capitalize the first letter of every word or capitalizing the entire title.

Let’s Make This More Difficult

If you write for us at Crowd Content, then you know that we defer to AP Style unless a client requests something different. You’ll be pleased to learn that AP Style has its own version of title case. The most notable difference is that in plain-Jane vanilla title case, you do not capitalize the word with. In AP title case, With is always capitalized.

  • Regular title case: What to Do with This and That
  • AP title case: What to Do With This and That

Fortunately, there’s a tool for that. TitleCase.com is a super-handy converter that takes your text and automagically converts it to both regular title case and AP title case — so there’s no guessing on your part.

ALSO: Percent vs %: What You Need to Know About AP’s 2019 Stylebook Changes

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Capitalizing Words in Titles

Do you capitalize the in a title?

Sentence case and title case: only capitalize the if it’s the first letter in the title or if it is part of a proper name such as that for a book or movie (ex: The Great Gatsby).

This same answer applies to questions about any articles including:

  • Do you capitalize the word a in a title?
  • Do you capitalize the word an in a title?
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Sometimes you have to stop and think about it.

Do you capitalize the second word in a hyphenated title?

Sentence case: don’t capitalize the second word in a hyphenated word unless it’s a proper noun, because it would never be the first word in the title.

Title case: capitalize words following hyphens if you would capitalize them if they stood alone. For example, in the title 7 Decision-Making Tools, making gets capitalized because it’s a verb that would get capitalized in a title alone. In the title 11 Ways to Increase Year-to-Year Profits, todoesn’t get capitalized because it’s a preposition that would not normally be capitalized in a title.

Do you capitalize the word in in a title?

Sentence case and title case: only capitalize in if it’s the first letter in the title or if it is part of a proper name such as that for a book or movie (ex: In the Heat of the Night).

This is because in is a preposition and is less than five letters, and prepositions, especially short ones, don’t get capitalized. This is the same answer for all short prepositions, so it would answer any of the following questions.

  • Do you capitalize the word into in a title?
  • Do you capitalize the word of in a title?
  • Do you capitalize the word by in a title?
  • Do you capitalize the word with in a title?

Do you capitalize the word and in a title?

Sentence case and title case: only capitalize and if it’s the first letter in the title or if it is part of a proper name such as that for a book or movie (ex: And Then There Were None).

This is because and is a conjunction and is less than five letters. This is the same answer for all short conjunctions, so it would answer any of the following questions too.

  • Do you capitalize the word or in a title?
  • Do you capitalize the word yet in a title?
  • Do you capitalize the word nor in a title?
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Feeling clueless? We’ve got you covered.

Do you capitalize the word not in a title?

Sentence case: Only if it’s the first word in the title or part of a proper name or title.

Title case: Generally, you do capitalize the word not. Even though it’s a small word, it’s usually critical to the meaning of the title.

Do you capitalize the word between in a title?

Sentence case: Only if it’s the first word in the title or part of a proper name or title.

Title case: Generally, you do capitalize the word between. Even though it’s a preposition, it’s five letters or longer.

Do you capitalize the word our in titles?

Sentence case: Only if it’s the first word in the title or part of a proper name or title.

Title case: Yes, you capitalize our in titles because it’s a pronoun. This is also true of pronouns such as me, you and they.

Do you capitalize the word is in titles?

Sentence case: Only if it’s the first word in the title or part of a proper name or title.

Title case: Yes, you capitalize is in titles because it’s a verb. Capitalize all verbs, even short ones such as be or go.

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Did we answer all of your questions?

Always Read the Instructions

The rules above are all general in nature. Always read the client instructions and review the style guides for projects you’re working on. Some clients prefer capitalizing all words, regardless of parts of speech, and some like sentence case for some headers and title case for others. Reading and following the instructions goes a long way toward making clients happy with your work.

ALSO: 10 Things to Know Before You Start Writing

And if you’re a client or brand and you’re not sure what decision to make regarding capitalization, consider this. Search engines and most readers don’t care if you follow APA manual, Chicago style or your own hybrid. They do care about consistency and quality, though, so choose some rules and stick to them.

Nissa Wallace

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Helping manage over 15,000 clients from over 80 countries, Nissa works with the customer success team at Crowd Content. Her goal is to help clients create unique and relevant content for their digital strategy. Originally from a small town in the mountains, Nissa moved to Vancouver Island to satisfy her curiosity about sociology, and complete her degree in it. When she takes a break from clients and content, Nissa spends time with her partner and her dog, Tickle. She also loves to embroider, paint and draw.

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