Chapter 3-8:  Capitalization 

Titles and Capitalization

Capitalization of titles poses a problem for many Francophone ESL learners because they capitalize them differently in French—they use something called "sentence case." Most of the words in titles of compositions and essays are capitalized in English using something called "title case."  The first letter of the first word and the first letter of the last word in titles are always capitalized.  Use the “CAP” acronym (for capitals) to remember which words in a title not to capitalize: 

C – coordinate conjunctions (e.g. “and”, “or”, “nor")

A – articles (“a”, “an”, “the”)

P – prepositions fewer than 5 letters long (e.g. “in”, “on”, “over”) 

Capitalizing hyphenated words in titles

Style guides have differing views on the subject of capitalizing hyphenated words. The general rule is that writers capitalize the first element of a hyphenated compound word and any following segments that are not articles, prepositions, or coordinating conjunctions. Here are some examples:

Meet Our New Editor-in-Chief

A Clean-Cut Father-in-Law Decides to Check-in to a Drug Rehabilitation Centre

Note that the information above deals with titles. Headings that identify sections in a document may use sentence case or title case depending on the format being used by the author.

Capitalization Within Sentences

If you have a question about whether a specific word should be capitalized that doesn't fit under one of these rules, try checking a dictionary to see if the word is capitalized there.

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Attribution information for this page: Contributions from Jamie Bridge; and Chris Berry, Allen Brizee of Purdue OwlPage keywords:  title capitalization, titles, capitalization of titlesPageID:  eslid16934