About Title Case and This Converter
Title case is a style that is traditionally used for the titles of books, movies, songs, plays and other works. In title case, all major words are capitalized, while minor words are lowercased. A simple example would be Lord of the Flies. Title case is often used for headlines as well, for example in newspapers, essays and blogs, and is therefore also known as headline style.
The capitalization rules are explained in detail in the next section, but essentially title case means to capitalize every word except articles (a, an, the
), coordinating conjunctions (and, or, but, …
) and (short) prepositions (in, on, for, up, …
). This might seem simple, almost trivial, but actually it isn’t. What’s tricky is that many words can be used in different grammatical functions. For example, in Lay It All on Me
, “on” is a preposition and must be lowercased, but it is used as an adjective in It’s On Again
and as an adverb in I Could Go On Singing
, so it must be capitalized in both cases. Here are some more examples:
- in: The Catcher in the Rye, but Give In to Me (adverb)
- out: Fresh out the Oven, but School’s Out Forever (adjective)
- up: Crawling up a Hill, but Picking Up the Pieces (adverb)
- but: Nothing but the Truth, but Life Is But a Dream (adverb)
- a: Let’s Make a Deal, but The A to Z of TV Gardening (noun)
- by: Stand by Me, but Stand By for Action (adverb)
These examples show that the approach to always lowercase in, on, by etc. in a title is inadequate and often leads to wrong results. This title case converter therefore uses more sophisticated methods and takes the context of each word into account to determine whether it should be capitalized or lowercased. This produces high-quality results, and all the examples mentioned above are handled correctly.
The converter also provides explanations why each word was capitalized or lowercased. They can be seen by hovering over the words of the converted title, or by switching on the Show Explanations option. If a word has a dotted red line under it, the converter is not sufficiently sure of its capitalization. The explanation text will then provide information to help decide which alternative is the right one. An example title to try this is out is The Monsters Came by Night.
Title Case Rules
Title case is not a universal standard. Instead, there are a number of style guides – for example, the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) and the MLA Handbook – which each have individual rules for the capitalization of titles. However, there is a consensus about the basic rules:
- Always capitalize the first and the last word of a title
- Capitalize the following parts of speech:
- pronouns (including it, my and our )
- verbs (including is, am and other forms of to be )
- subordinating conjunctions (including if )
- long prepositions (style-dependent)
- Lowercase the following parts of speech:
- coordinating conjunctions
- short prepositions (style-dependent)
- to as part of an infinitive
The main difference between the styles is which prepositions are lowercased. AP only lowercases prepositions up to three letters (in, on, off, out, …). Wikipedia lowercases prepositions up to four letters (from, with, over, like, …). MLA and CMOS on the other hand lowercase all prepositions, regardless of their length.
Another difference concerns the conjunctions: MLA and Wikipedia explicitly lowercase all seven coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so (which can be remembered by the mnemonic FANBOYS). The AP stylebook only mentions that conjunctions with four or more letters should be capitalized, without explicitly listing those that should be lowercased, so this converter uses the same rules here as for MLA and Wikipedia. The only exception is CMOS; it only lowercases for, and, nor, but, or, but not yet and so.
CMOS has several additional rules that are unique to this style: as is always lowercased, even if it is used as adverb or subordinating conjunction (Running as Fast as I Can). The second part of Latin species names is lowercased, even if it is the last word of a title (Felis catus). Parts of proper names are lowercased if they would be lowercased in regular text (Vincent van Gogh). In hyphenated compounds, the second element is lowercased if it is not a proper noun or proper adjective and follows a prefix that cannot stand by itself (X-ray, Anti-inflammatory, but Anti-British).
Wikipedia has special rules as well: Capitalize the first word in a compound preposition (Out of, Next to ). For hyphenated compounds, follow the capitalization of reliable sources if they are consistent (Middle-earth). For titles with parenthetical phrases, capitalize both parts as if they were independent titles ((Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay). (Since the other style guides do not address the topic of parenthetical phrases, this converter applies the Wikipedia rule to the other styles as well.)