What To Capitalize In Titles


I understand that you are supposed to capitalize the first letter, as well as “main” words. What I don’t quite get is what am I supposed to not capitalize. Especially, verbs and prepositions.

To? In? Through? Except? Are? Is? Into?

In: 15

Generally you don’t capitalize short and/or very common words. The ones that first come to me: of, the, with, to. The only exception to words like these is if they are the beginning of the title

There are multiple style guides. Your article should conform to the one selected by your publication.

In the most common case all words in a title must be capitalized, except:

a) articles (a an the),

b) conjuctions (and or but nor),

c) short prepositions that are not part of a phrasal verb with a length limit of 3 or 4 letters. A phrasal verb is a widely understood combination of a preposition with a verb that modifies its meaning (Send In the Clowns, Wake Up and Smell the Ashes).

The last word is always capitalized regardless of its category.

Into, From, Over are 4 letters long. Some style guides require these to be capitalized, others do not.

Less commonly: all long prepositions are lowercased, long headlines might use sentence case.


Publishers will use different style guides, but generally:
Capitalize the first and words of the title (and subtitle if present)
Capitalize all other words except articles, coordinating conjunctions, and prepositions

So if your list was a title, it would go To (first word) in (preposition) through (preposition) except (if used as a preposition or) Except (if used as a noun, uncommon) Are (verb) Is (verb) Into (last word)

Everyone follows variations on similar rules. Unlike another commenter, I always capitalize Is. I don’t capitalize articles and prepositions like the, in, to and from. But, when the preposition is 5 letters or more, I capitalize it, like Above and Through. What you’re confronting here is not only people having their personal preferences, but schools, corporations, newspapers, etc. may each have their own set of “style guidelines”, so you should follow the guidelines that apply to any document you’re writing.

Or prioritise readability – and your readers – and don’t capitalise anything but the first word.

In English, the convention is to capitalize the first letter of the first word plus any words that aren’t articles (the, a, this, that) or prepositions (with, of, from). However, if the title *starts* with an article or preposition, you’d still capitalize it.

For example, “The Cat in the Hat” would be correct. The first “The” is capitalized because it’s the first word of the title. “In” and the second “the” are not capitalized because they’re an article and a preposition. “Cat” and “Hat” are both capitalized because they’re neither articles nor prepositions.

In most other languages I’ve looked at, the convention is to capitalize the first letter of the first word, but follow normal capitalization rules for any additional words (so, all nouns for German, proper nouns only for Spanish, etc).

Many people have much more elaborate answers that I could provide. Style guides are good. The one thing I do have to add is that I was taught that if you follow the the rules and all of the words are capitalized except one that you should capitalize it as well. So “Cat in the Hat” is the “correct” way to capitalize that title but if the article “the” were not present, I was taught that the title should be “Cat In Hat”. I am not saying I am right, I am saying this is what I was taught.