Title Capitalization Blog

Is On Capitalized in a Title?

At first glance, capitalizing on in title case seems easy: On a preposition, so it must be lowercased, right? Well, it’s not quite that simple, because on is not always a preposition, it can also be used as an adverb or an adjective, and in those cases it must be capitalized. Let’s take a closer look at the different cases.

On Used as an Adverb

On is often used as an adverb, especially in phrasal verbs such as “bring on,” “carry on,” “move on,” or “take on,” and it must be capitalized in this usage. Here are some examples:
Holding On Too Tight
Keep On Running
Shine On You Crazy Diamond
Break On Through (to the Other Side)

On Used as an Adjective

When used as an adjective, on is capitalized as well:
Move the Switch to the On Position
Please Leave a Light On When You Go
The Race Is On to Control Artificial Intelligence

On Used as a Preposition

However, when on is used as a preposition, it is lowercased:
Born on the Fourth of July
Find Out What’s on Sale Today
Back on Top
Portrait of a Lady on Fire

On as First Word or Last Word

Under certain circumstances, the preposition on is capitalized after all. All style guides agree that the first word in a title is always capitalized:
On the Edge of Tomorrow
However, there’s no consensus on how to handle the last word. According to AP, Chicago, MLA, New York Times, and Wikipedia style, the last word is also always capitalized:
The Planet We Are Living On
Such a rule does not exist though in AMA, APA, and Bluebook style, so in these styles, a minor word is not capitalized when it is the last word:
That’s a Hill I’m Prepared to Die on

On in Hyphenated Words

Capitalizing on in hyphenated words can be tricky, at least if you follow AMA style, whose rules produce unintuitive results (in my opinion). When on is the second word in a two-word compound like “head-on” or “add-on,” then it is sometimes capitalized in AMA style and sometimes not. For example, it’s
Five of the Best Carry-on Bags
Five of the Best Spray-On Sunscreens
In all other styles, on is capitalized in both cases. For more information, see the article Capitalizing Hyphenated Words in Titles.

A Tip

Although it's useful to know the exact rules, you can let the Title Case Converter do the capitalization for you. This free tool automatically applies the appropriate rules to capitalize your titles correctly. Give it a try!
Photo: iStock.com/On-Air