Title Capitalization Blog

Is But Capitalized in a Title?

In title case, articles, short prepositions, and coordinating conjunctions are not capitalized, and but is a coordinating conjunction. So does this mean that it should be invariably lowercased? No, it’s not as simple as that, because but is not always a conjunction. Let’s take a look at the various possibilities.

AMA, AP, APA, Bluebook, Chicago, MLA, Wikipedia

In these seven styles, the capitalization of but depends on its grammatical function.

But Used as a Conjunction

As already mentioned, but can be a conjunction, and when that is the case, it must be lowercased:
Anything but Ordinary
It’s Not Right but It’s Okay
Gone, but Not Forgotten

But Used as a Preposition

But can also be a preposition, and must then be lowercased as well, as in these examples:
Anywhere but Here
Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number
Never Be Anyone Else but You

But Used as a Adverb

When but is used as an adverb, however, it must be capitalized:
Life Is But a Dream
Known But to God
Ain’t But a Few of Us Left

Distinguishing the Cases

In practice, it is not necessary to determine whether but is used as a conjunction or as a preposition, because it is lowercased in either case. It only matters whether or not but is used as an adverb, because then it must be capitalized. Luckily, this can be determined easily: If but can be replaced with “only” or “merely”, then it is an adverb.
For example, instead of “Christmas comes but once a year,” you could just as well say “Christmas comes only once a year,” so but is an adverb here and must be capitalized:
Christmas Comes But Once a Year
In contrast, in “It’s nobody’s fault but mine”, but can be replaced with “except,” and in “Sad but true”, but can replaced with “yet,” but not with “only” or “merely,” so in these two titles, but would not be capitalized:
It’s Nobody’s Fault but Mine
Sad but True

New York Times

Compared to the other styles, the handling of but is easier in New York Times style. The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage lists but as a word that should be lowercased, and doesn’t mention any exceptions, so consequently it should always be lowercased, even when used as an adverb:
To Name but a Few

But as the First Word or Last Word

There are two special cases to be considered for all styles: When but occurs as the first word of the title, then it must of course be capitalized:
But I Do Love You
But cannot occur as the last word of a title, except when the title is incomplete, and as I have argued in an earlier article, I think but should not be capitalized in such a case:
Nobody Here but


The free Title Case Converter takes all these rules into consideration. Give it a try!
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