What Is Title Case?
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 more 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., is inadequate and often leads to wrong results. This title capitalization tool therefore uses more sophisticated methods to capitalize your titles, and takes the context of each word into account. This produces high-quality results, and all the examples mentioned above are handled correctly.
Title Capitalization 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 word of a title
- Always capitalize the last word of a title (exception: not in APA style)
- Capitalize the following parts of speech:
- pronouns (including it, my, and our )
- verbs (including is, am, and other forms of to be )
- subordinating conjunctions (style-dependent)
- 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. According to the APA manual and the AP guidelines on composition titles, only prepositions up to three letters are lowercased (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. The New York Times applies special rules: only selected prepositions with two or three letters are lowercased (at, by, in, for, …), while other prepositions of the same length are capitalized (up, off, out, …), as well as all prepositions with more than three letters.
Another difference concerns coordinating conjunctions: MLA and Wikipedia explicitly lowercase all seven: 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, and neither does the APA manual, so this converter lowercases all seven coordinating conjunctions for these two styles as well. CMOS lowercases for, and, nor, but, or, but not yet and so. The New York Times lowercases for, and, but, or, and capitalizes nor, yet, so.
APA has a few special rules: It doesn’t feature a rule to always capitalize the last word, so a preposition at the end of a title is lowercased (Be Careful What You Wish for). The second part of a Latin species name is lowercased as well (Canis familiaris). In hyphenated words, the second part is lowercased if the first part is a prefix (Pre-existing, but Self-Report).
CMOS shares the last two APA rules: The second part of Latin species names is lowercased, even if it is the last word of a title (Felis catus). 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). Parts of proper names are lowercased if they would be lowercased in regular text (Vincent van Gogh). The word as is always lowercased, even if it is used as an adverb or subordinating conjunction (Running as Fast as I Can).
The New York Times always lowercases not only as but also the subordinating conjunction if (What if We’re Wrong?). The word for is capitalized if it takes the place of a verb (Mayor For Health Insurance Plan). If a hyphen is used after a two- or three-letter prefix to separate doubled vowels or to clarify the pronunciation, the word after the hyphen is lowercased (Co-operation, but Co-Author).
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).
Using the Converter
You can enter text either by typing or by pasting from the clipboard. If the option “Convert When Text Is Pasted” is checked, then pasting text automatically triggers the conversion. Otherwise, press “Enter” to start the conversion (only in single-line mode) or click the “Convert” button. After the conversion, you can copy the results to the clipboard by clicking the “Copy” or “Copy All” button, or by pressing Ctrl+C (this works without marking the text beforehand!).
The converter provides explanations for 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 you decide which alternative is the right one. An example title to try this is out with is The Monsters Came by Night.
There are several options available. Only the first two have an influence on the result of the conversion:
Keep Words in All Caps: If this option is checked, then entered words in all caps will not be changed by the converter. For example, the input FREE consultation would be converted to FREE Consultation. If the option is unchecked, the result would be Free Consultation. The converter also recognizes various common acronyms and always converts them to all caps. For example, the inputs usa, uSa, and USA would all result in the output USA, even if “Keep Words in All Caps” is not checked. Unavoidably, acronyms that cannot be distinguished from regular words are exempt from this special handling (e.g., IT/it or US/us).
Use Straight Quotes: If this option is not checked, all quotation marks in the titles will be converted to curly quotes, also known as “smart” quotes or typographer’s quotes. Check this option if you prefer straight quotes, also known as "dumb" quotes or typewriter quotes.
Enable Multi-Line Input: Use this option to switch between single-line and multi-line mode. In single-line mode, only one title can be converted at a time, but in multiple styles, if desired. Multi-line mode, on the other hand, allows converting up to 30 titles at a time, but only in one style.
Show Explanations: If checked, explanations are shown for why each word was capitalized or lowercased.
Highlight Changes: If this option is checked, then all letters whose capitalization has changed are marked in yellow.
Convert When Text Is Pasted: If checked, pasting text triggers the conversion. Clearing the text box before pasting is not necessary since the existing text will be overwritten.
In addition to converting to title case, the converter also performs small typographic corrections. For example, straight quotes are changed to curly quotes, hyphens are changed to dashes where appropriate, three consecutive dots are converted to an ellipsis, and spaces are removed before question marks, exclamation marks, commas, etc. For example, "I like rock 'n' roll !" becomes “I Like Rock ’n’ Roll!”
If you find any errors or have a suggestion, please contact me.