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.

20 responses so far

20 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.

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