Thursday, October 11, 2012

do you know which words to capitalize in a title?

Great, you may be thinking. Another article about rules! When does it end?

I have to say, though, that these posts are wonderful to share, because you know what they say about rules: eventually they’re meant to be broken. (Or at least challenged.) And who doesn’t love breaking the rules every now and then?

So today’s topic is about which words should be capitalized in a title. First, let’s look briefly at the “traditional” rules. In general, the following should be capitalized in titles:

First words
Last words
Nouns, adjectives, adverbs, verbs, pronouns

These types of words usually remain in lower case:

Prepositions (of, by, for)
Articles (a, an) - unless it’s the first word in the title
Conjunctions (but, and)

A fairly universal exception would be if any of these words mentioned above appear first in the title (or last, although that’s not too common).

E.g., A Guide to Getting Ahead in the Workplace

So what other exceptions might arise? First, discrepancies between style guides (Associated Press vs. Chicago Manual of Style) sometimes occur. Or a company may implement its own style guide to dictate how words should be treated within a title. So how important is it to follow the rules? And how do you know which rules to follow?

Consider how your writing will be published. If you’re writing as a journalist or penning news pieces, Associated Press (AP) is the way to go. Chicago Manual of Style is the standard for publishing (fiction, non-fiction), Modern Language Association (MLA) is for academics, and the American Psychological Association (APA) is honored by social science networks (psychology, education, politics).

What about if you’re writing for your company or organization and there is no style guide? And what if you are an entrepreneur, composing posts for your own blog?

Then you’ve got quite a bit of freedom! If there are no rules set in stone, the main thing to remember is to keep things consistent. For example, you might capitalize only the first word in every title. That’s ok—but remember to do this every time so your titles are uniform. (And yes, I realize I haven’t capitalized any words in my blog titles. I kinda like it that way—like I’m breaking all the rules!)

How about you? What rules do you follow when writing titles? Why?


Martha Giffen said...

I happen to like these rules! One I have always used for effect is a question but after learning google doesn't like that, I've stopped. Yes, their rules matter too! LOL

jazzmom said...

Questions are an excellent way to start a piece...ending with them works, too! I didn't know Google frowned on this practice though...I wonder why?