One of the trickiest things about freelance copywriting work is confirming to each blog’s or publication’s standards. For example, how to capitalize your titles. I’m sharing here what I’ve learned so far in the hopes that some of you may find it useful. The information here comes from Bruce Spielbauer on Quora.
Before I expand on the subject, here’s an automatic online capitalization tool that capitalizes your titles according to your preferred style: Capitalize My Title. This can be a life savior if you’re ever in capitalization trouble!
Rules of capitalization
The rules for capitalization in titles of articles (and also books, papers, speeches, etc) can vary according to a particular style guide, such as The Associated Press Stylebook, The Chicago Manual of Style, and the MLA Handbook. Also, most publications have their own style. For example, this is the Manual of Style and Usage for the New York Times.
Generally, you will use title case, although as you will see below sentence case is an option. There is also what is called “down style” headlines, where capitalization follows what you would see in a line of text where only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized.
While you will find similarities between each guide, it’s important to pay attention to their differences.
Style guide similarities:
- In all three styles, always capitalize the first and last word of any title: How to Land Your Dream Job.
- In all three styles, you must capitalize nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs: Visiting Beautiful Ruins (noun), As She Ran Away (pronoun), The Importance of Learning Fast (verb), The Poky Little Puppy (adjective), She Quietly Waits (adverb).
- In all three styles, do not capitalize articles, prepositions, or coordinating conjunctions: To Catch a Thief (article), One Year in Paris (preposition), Magic and Daybreak (coordinating conjunction).
Style guide differences:
- In the AP Stylebook, all words with three letters or less are lowercased. However, if any of those short words are verbs (is, are, was, be), they are to be capitalized.
- In Chicago Style, all prepositions are lowercased, even the lengthier ones, such as between, among, throughout.
- In MLA style, words with three letters or less are always lowercased.
Most articles written in English, including most academic circles, schools, journalism, and published resources of every kind, follow the standard rules of capitalization as published by the Associated Press. However, you can literally make up your own rules, as long as you follow them consistently. Indeed, part of my work as editor-in-chief for InSync Media was to standardize the style of the company’s blog publications by producing a style manual.
You can read more on each style’s capitalization rules on Your Dictionary.