All About Capitalization Rules and Guidelines

Capitalization can be something automatically known, but also something easily second-guessed.

The following types of words are usually capitalized:

  • names for the deity, religions
  • religious followers, sacred books
  • words of family relationship used as names
  • particular places 
  • nationalities and their languages
  • races, tribes
  • departments
  • degrees
  • particular courses
  • organizations
  • political parties
  • historical movements
  • periods (time, cultural, etc. -- Middle Ages or the Harlem Renaissance)

In general, titles or subtitles have the first word, the last word, and all major words (including both parts of hyphenated words) capitalized.

Capitalizations when writing titles:

Here are the words that are capitalized when writing a title:

  • Nouns (e.g., cat as in The Cat in the Hat)
  • Pronouns (e.g. her, The Writer on Her Work; that as in The Light That Failed)
  • Verbs (e.g. rises as in The Sun Also Rises)
  • Adjectives (e.g., old as in The Old Man and the Sea)
  • Adverbs (e.g., quickly as in How to Learn Anything Quickly)
  • Subordinating conjunctions (e.g. after, although, as if, as soon as, because, before, if, that, unless, until, when, where, while, as in Because of Winn-Dixie)

The following parts of speech are not capitalized when they occur in the middle of the title:

  • Articles (a, an, the)
  • Prepositions (e.g., against, between, in, of, to, as in The Catcher in the Rye)
  • Coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet, as in Like Water for Chocolate)
  • The to in infinitives (as in A Time to Kill)

To view or print our Helpful Handout, click here: Capitalization

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Page last modified February 14, 2019