Aug 16 2011

Words Which Should Not Be Capitalized in a Title

Published by at 3:49 am under Common Mechanical Mistakes,Titles

Everything but articles, coordinating conjunctions and prepositions should be capitalized in titles.


Which words should not be capitalized in a title?

  • Articles: a, an, & the.
  • Coordinate conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet & so (FANBOYS).
  • Prepositions, such as at, around, by, after, along, for, from, of, on, to, with & without. (According to the Chicago Manual of Style, all prepositions should be uncapitalized in a title.  NIVA and I recommend capitalizing prepositions 5+ letters long).


Which words should be capitalized in a title?

  • The first and last words should always be capitalized, even if they’re in the above list.
  • All nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs should be capitalized.
  • Subordinate conjunctions, such as after, as, because, how, who, if, than, what, why, that, when, where, whether & while.
  • Commonly missed words: it (pronoun), is (verb), be (verb) and their/our/my (adjective) should all be capitalized.


In most nonprofessional settings (such as schoolwork and blogging), you’ll be fine as long as you’re pretty close.  In professional publishing, it’d be advantageous to know the finer points, but I think a minor error would be excusable in a novel manuscript.

  • INCORRECT BUT PROBABLY CLOSE ENOUGH: Keep it Close.  (Pronouns like it should be capitalized).
  • INSTANT REJECTION: the legend of Slaughter hill.  This author obviously didn’t proofread and/or is entirely clueless.

58 responses so far

58 Responses to “Words Which Should Not Be Capitalized in a Title”

  1. Grenacon 16 Aug 2011 at 4:35 am

    Pffft, my method was always to not capitalize tiny words like ‘of’ and ‘as’ if they weren’t first.

  2. B. Macon 16 Aug 2011 at 5:26 am

    That’s usually correct, Grenac, but some short words (such as it, be, are, is, my, our, and B. Mac) should be capitalized in a title. However, I think that’s definitely close enough for school/nonprofessional use.

  3. steton 16 Aug 2011 at 5:34 am

    I get ‘that’ wrong every time, so I’m v. happy to see that it’s on both lists. (Now I have to figure the difference between a proposition and a subordinate conjunction.)

  4. Mark Evanson 16 Aug 2011 at 5:42 am

    Completely unprofessional, I know (I deserve slaps), but I repeat the title over in my head and capitalise all the words that feel like they should be important.

    Whether By Luck or Some In-Built, Subconscious Comprehension of English Grammar, It Serves Me Quite Well (but is clearly why I sometimes make mistakes).

  5. Snowon 16 Aug 2011 at 8:08 pm

    Yes! A wonderful reference article. I think I needed this.

  6. meon 04 Sep 2012 at 8:08 pm

    Thank you!!!

  7. Lynnon 15 Jun 2013 at 11:35 am

    I am yet to write an external examination and this is exactly what I need. Thanks!!

  8. anonon 09 Sep 2013 at 11:56 am

    This is ridiculous, just write a script and be done with it.

  9. B. McKenzieon 09 Sep 2013 at 6:48 pm

    “This is ridiculous, just write a script and be done with it.” I agree that writing the script/manuscript is the most important thing, but proofreading also matters. In a different context (a split-test for a marketing agency), we added ~$1 million in annual sales for a client by using standard title capitalization in their coupons.

  10. Elecon 12 Sep 2013 at 2:32 am

    This is a very useful article, and it’s really helped me make sense of something I occasionally struggle with. Thanks B. Mac!

  11. writeron 04 Apr 2014 at 11:58 am

    Should the word ‘other’ be capitalized in a title?

  12. B. McKenzieon 04 Apr 2014 at 7:30 pm

    “Should the word ‘other’ be capitalized in a title?” Yes. (It could be used as an adjective or a noun, and both are capitalized).

  13. Bobbyon 08 Jul 2014 at 8:31 pm

    This tool will automatically capitalize your titles:

  14. B. McKenzieon 09 Jul 2014 at 5:28 am

    Bobby, I think it’s helpful. Nice work!

  15. LizRon 02 Jul 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Hah! You’re all just lackeys to the Capitalist system!

    (Sorry, I cuoldn’t resist. I’ll get my subordinate conjunctions and leave).

  16. B. McKenzieon 02 Jul 2015 at 6:49 pm

    “You’re all just lackeys to the Capitalist system!” I’m a marketer. I’m running the crazy train! 🙂

  17. J.C.on 06 Jul 2015 at 6:56 am

    The title “the legend of Slaughter hill” would be acceptable for a poem. In fact, it’s more interesting that way.

  18. B. McKenzieon 08 Jul 2015 at 8:46 pm

    “The title “the legend of Slaughter hill” would be acceptable for a poem. In fact, it’s more interesting that way.” If the editorial assistant knew it was intentional, maybe. But I feel the title “Legend of Slaughter Hill” (regardless of capitalization) suggests amateurism rather than the sixth coming of e e cummings. It sounds like a self-published horror story or, possibly, Carrie fan-fiction.

  19. Lytra Wilsonon 21 Oct 2015 at 5:57 am

    I am in the process of submitting a manuscript to an agent. I have always believed that titles of movies and books are capitalized or italicized-even when referring to them in a manuscript. I just wanted to verify that belief.

  20. B. McKenzieon 21 Oct 2015 at 4:25 pm

    I’d recommend capitalizing and italicizing the title of a book or movie within your manuscript. Fortunately, this issue is low-stakes, bordering on no-stakes. If your manuscript is otherwise publishable, a prospective agent or publisher would certainly not pass on it because of a non-italicized title.

  21. cynthiaon 24 Dec 2015 at 8:59 pm

    At one point I took a semester of Grammar and Punctuation. The instructor simply wrote down a list of the words you don’t capitalize in a title. How I wish I kept that, it was very clear and easy to refer to. This is not.

  22. B. McKenzieon 24 Dec 2015 at 9:49 pm

    Under Chicago style, these words should not be capitalized in a title unless they come first or last. If the following list is much more helpful than the article above, I’d recommend getting a refund on anything you paid for that class on grammar and punctuation.


  23. questiongirlon 13 Oct 2016 at 4:41 am

    can i capalize ‘to’?

  24. B. McKenzieon 13 Oct 2016 at 5:58 am

    Can I capitalize ‘to?’

    Unless it’s the first word of a title, “to” shouldn’t be capitalized in a title (e.g. “View to a Kill”). Please see above list.

  25. Avaon 27 Jan 2017 at 9:12 pm

    This is so helpful! Thank you such I always though it and is shouldn’t be capitalized! 🙂

  26. Avaon 27 Jan 2017 at 10:06 pm

    Is ‘does’ capitalized?

  27. B. McKenzieon 28 Jan 2017 at 11:06 pm

    Yes – “does” gets capitalized because it’s a verb.

  28. (0_n')on 29 Jan 2017 at 10:15 am

    I should remember this when I am writing in English. In my native language, you never capitalize adjektives, nouns, adverbs, or verb. Unless they are the first word in sentence.

  29. Elzoon 10 Feb 2017 at 8:53 pm

    Should the non-standard contraction “outta” be capitalised?

  30. B. McKenzieon 10 Feb 2017 at 9:56 pm

    Yeah, “Outta” should be capitalized.

  31. Sarahon 01 Sep 2017 at 11:15 am

    Gerund? Dallas Is Pleased to Welcome Senator Smith, or Dallas is Pleased To Welcome Senator Smith?

  32. B. McKenzieon 01 Sep 2017 at 2:48 pm

    No capitalization for “to” – it’s a preposition. Also, if we’re getting really nitpicky, I think “to welcome” is infinitive rather than gerund. (I think the gerund is a verb used as a noun, e.g. “Smoking is legal” or “If we were major campaign donors, Senator Smith would be pleased to give us a welcoming like you wouldn’t believe”).

  33. Anonymouson 06 Mar 2019 at 7:45 pm

    should did be capitalized

  34. B. McKenzieon 07 Mar 2019 at 6:04 am

    Yes, “Did” is a verb.

  35. Anonymouson 28 May 2019 at 9:15 am

    Can I capitalize was?

  36. BMon 28 May 2019 at 2:58 pm

    “Can I capitalize was?” Yes, verbs (like “was”) should be capitalized in a title.

  37. Sarah H.on 26 Nov 2019 at 8:56 am

    If the word “so” is being used as an adverb and not a conjunction, can it be capitalized in a title?

  38. B. McKenzieon 27 Nov 2019 at 4:42 pm

    Yes, I would capitalize So as an adverb, e.g. A River So Deadly.

  39. Alleeon 13 Feb 2020 at 10:29 am

    Can I capitalize “can”?

  40. B. McKenzieon 13 Feb 2020 at 4:23 pm

    Yes, do capitalize “Can”. It’s either a verb or noun.

  41. clowryofthecountyon 23 Apr 2020 at 6:16 pm

    The band The The should actually be known as The the.

  42. BMon 24 Apr 2020 at 10:25 am

    Ooh, great situation with The The. “the” is usually uncapitalized when used as an article, but the second “The” in The The should be capitalized because it appears to be a noun.

    Alternatively if The were a non-English word (e.g. a Vietnamese dish) capitalizing it would make sense, even though “the” usually doesn’t get capitalized.

    Also, I think capitalizing every word in a band makes sense. Hell, KISS capitalized everything. 😄

  43. Emilyon 21 Jun 2020 at 7:16 pm

    What or who is NIVA?

  44. Melissaon 28 Oct 2020 at 3:46 pm

    how about home ?

  45. B. McKenzieon 28 Oct 2020 at 10:13 pm

    “Home” should be capitalized in a title. (It’s usually used as a noun, and nouns are capitalized. “Home” can also be used as an adjective or verb, and both of those are capitalized as well).

  46. Robert Gustafsonon 21 Apr 2021 at 10:41 am

    What about the word “NOT” in a title?

    Souls Are Not Inherently Immortal
    Souls Can Be Destroyed

  47. Anonymouson 22 Apr 2021 at 8:06 am

    “Not” should be capitalized in a title (it’s an adverb).

  48. Anonymouson 18 May 2021 at 4:23 am

    What about “All”?

  49. B. McKenzieon 21 May 2021 at 12:57 am

    Yes, “All” should be capitalized in a title.

  50. Aliceon 07 Jun 2021 at 6:33 am

    It feels so wrong to capitalize “if”, but I trust you!

  51. BMon 07 Jun 2021 at 8:06 pm

    “It feels so wrong to capitalize “if”, but I trust you!” I agree a capital If looks unintuitive, but it is widely capitalized in book titles. (E.g. searching for books on Amazon which use “if” in their title, 28 of the first 30 capitalized if. Methodology: I looked at books where “if” was not the first/last word, and I excluded one title entirely uncapitalized).

  52. samaneh Ghassabi Kondalajion 23 Aug 2021 at 5:16 am

    Can I capitalize the word “away” in the title: “… Moves away from Their Site..”

  53. B. McKenzieon 23 Aug 2021 at 7:57 am

    Yes, “away” should be capitalized in a title. It’s an adverb.

  54. Anonymouson 08 Oct 2021 at 7:29 am

    What about genuine???*

  55. B. McKenzieon 10 Oct 2021 at 8:53 am

    Yes to “Genuine”. Adjectives are capitalized in titles.

  56. Kenon 11 Oct 2021 at 7:41 am

    Hey B. Mac. I sent you an email on October 1st. I haven’t gotten a response yet. Thank you.

  57. B. McKenzieon 15 Oct 2021 at 4:55 am

    Ken, I’ve sent you an email. (Thanks for waiting, I haven’t seen many ~1940s movies recently and I needed to review).

  58. Danielon 05 Nov 2021 at 9:35 am

    McKenzie! You’re awsome! I found that this website was published on August 16th, 2011, and the last time you replied is about 21 days ago! I think you wrote that you are a marketer? I hope you succeed! I was writing an New York Times essay! =)

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