This simple guide will help you capitalize words in titles and headings correctly. The three major style guides, The Chicago Manual of Style, The Associated Press Stylebook, and the MLA Handbook have the same guidelines, with two exceptions. This guide explains the common rules and those that differ among the stylebooks. For the most part, if you identify the words you should not capitalize, you won’t have to remember the rules for words you should capitalize.
Summary ~ Capitalization of Titles and Headings
Capitalize the following:
Words normally capitalized, such as names (Frank, Oregon, Ford)
Adjectives (large, red, round, bitter)
Adverbs (beautifully, firmly, early)
Nouns (bird, Washington, building)
Verbs (run, throwing, left)
Pronouns (they, he, she)
Subordinating conjunctions (because, since, therefore)
Do not capitalize the following
Coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or, yet, so)
Prepositions (above, across, against, at, between, by, along, among, down, in, around, of, off, on, to, with, before, behind, below, beneath, down, from, near, toward, upon, and within)
Detail ~ Capitalization of Titles and Headings
Capitalize the First and Last Words in the Title
Capitalize the first word and last word in the title, even if the last word is one of the words in the list of words you should not to capitalize.
The Shape You’re In
The Trial of the Century
Capitalize Nouns and Pronouns
Capitalize nouns and pronouns. Nouns are the names of persons, places, or things. Pronouns are words that stand for nouns, such as “he,” “it,” and “they.” If the noun is “George,” the pronouns are “he,” “him,” and “his.”
Capitalize Verbs and Helping Verbs
Capitalize verbs, the action words of the sentence and helping verbs. You don’t have to memorize the helping verbs. Just look for words that are connected to the verb. These are helping verbs: am, are, is, was, were, be, been, being, do, does, did, have, has, had, might, will, would, most, can, could, may, shall, should, ought to, and must.
The Dogs of War Were Sleeping
Blue Skies Give Way to Storms
Capitalize Adverbs and Adjectives
Capitalize the words that modify verbs, called “adverbs,” and nouns, called “adjectives.” If a word in the title is defining or modifying another word, it is an adverb or adjective. Capitalize it.
(“Radical” modifies “objectives” by telling the reader which types of objectives.)
They Look Greedily at the Shiny Objects
(“Greedily” modifies “look” and “shiny” modifies “objects.”)
Some Costly Gems Are Not the Rarest
(“Costly” modifies “gems.”)
Words You Should Not Capitalize
There are three articles: “a,” “an,” and “the.” Don’t capitalize them.
Lowercase these conjunctions: and, but, for, nor, or, yet, so.
Lowercase these prepositions: above, across, against, at, between, by, along, among, down, in, around, of, off, on, to, with, before, behind, below, beneath, down, from, near, toward, upon, and within.