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What to Capitalize in a Title

The rules related to the capitalization of titles change depending on the formatting style you use in your document. For this quick review, we'll cover the most commonly used styles—particularly AP and Chicago styles—and the exact words to capitalize when writing in title case.

The most common approach to capitalizing in title case

In most cases, you will want to capitalize the first and last words of the title, along with all words except:

  • Articles (a, an, the)
  • Coordinating conjunctions fewer than four letters (and, but, for, nor, or, so, and yet)
  • Prepositions that are not used adjectivally or adverbially (at, by, in, of, to, on, up).

Note: A major difference between AP and Chicago styles is Chicago style does not capitalize a long preposition, such as "between"; AP does.

Below are examples of titles written following these rules:

Stand by Me
Stand By for More ("by" is used adverbially, and thus should be capitalized)
Located at the Top of the World
Not Now or Ever

Online resources for capitalization

If you still get confused when trying to capitalize a title, there are a few great online resources you can use to make sure you've done it correctly.

Capitalize My Title allows you to write a title in one of the four main title capitalization styles: Chicago style, APA style, MLA style, and AP style. All you have to do is write in the title and choose a style, and the program will capitalize it for you based on the rules of that particular style.

Title Case Converter advertises itself as A Smart Tool for Capitalizing Headlines and Titles. Similar to Capitalize My Title, Title Case Converter allows you to choose the style you want out of AP, APA, Chicago, MLA, New York Times or Wikipedia. It also gives you the options to keep words in all caps, enable multi-line input, show explanations (which provides explanations of why each word was capitalized or lowercased), highlight changes, and convert when text is pasted.

So what's the deal with "Is"?

A lot of writers falsely assume that "is" should not be capitalized in a title. However, "is" is a conjugation of the verb "be", and therefore, should be treated just like any other verb in the sentence and capitalized.

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