Title Capitalization Blog

Is Out Capitalized in a Title?

Capitalizing out correctly when using title case is not exactly easy. This is partly because out has several grammatical functions which are handled differently. But also the style guide that is used plays a role: Not all of them demand lowercasing the preposition out, and those that do not necessarily lowercase the preposition out of as well. Let’s examine the different cases systematically.

Capitalizing Out

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

In these seven styles, the capitalization of out depends on its part of speech. The word out can be used in five grammatical functions.

Out as an Adverb

Out is often used as an adverb, typically in phrasal verbs such as “try out,” “stand out,” “check out,” “fill out,” “break out,” or “drop out.” In such a case, out must be capitalized:
Take Me Out to the Ballgame
Look Out Sunshine!

Out as an Adjective

Out must also be capitalized when it is used as an adjective:
In Through the Out Door
School’s Out Forever

Out as a Verb

Out can be used as a verb, and verbs are always capitalized in title case:
Don’t Out People
The Truth Will Out … or Will It?

Out as a Noun

The use of out as a noun is rare, but in such a case, it must be capitalized as well.
Looking for an Out or an Excuse

Out as a Preposition

The interesting case is when out is used as a preposition. As a three-letter preposition, it must be lowercased according to all seven style guides:
Looking out the Window
One Foot out the Door
As usual, this does not apply when out is the first word of the title, since that is always capitalized:
Out the Blue

New York Times Style

The NY Times handles out differently than the other style guides. The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage contains a table with words that are always capitalized in titles and out is included in this list. This means it must be capitalized even when used as a preposition.
Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?

Capitalizing Out Here and Out There

It’s probably undisputed that the word in should not be capitalized in the phrase “in here,” since it is being used as a preposition: “It’s Hot in Here.” I think it is only logical to treat out the same way: “It’s Hot out Here.”
There Is Nothing out Here
The same reasoning applies to “out there”:
I Know You're out There Somewhere
There are two exceptions, however:
  1. As previously mentioned, out is always capitalized in New York Times style
  2. Out should be capitalized when part of a phrasal verb:
Find Out Here If You Are Eligible
NB: The capitalization of if depends on the style guide being used.

Capitalizing Out of

Even though most style guides lowercase the preposition out, this does not necessarily mean that they lowercase the two-word preposition out of as well. Let’s look into the different style guides one by one.

AMA Style

The AMA Manual of Style does not address out of explicitly. However, we can deduce from the titles of articles published by the AMA that out of is always capitalized in AMA style:
Older Patients (Still) Left Out of Cancer Clinical Trials
Source: JAMA Network
Association of Days Alive and Out of the Hospital After Ventricular Assist Device Implantation With Adverse Events and Quality of Life
Source: JAMA Network

AP Style

I found an answer in the “Ask the Editor” section of the AP website (accessible to subscribers only) that states that out of is not capitalized in composition titles:
Pathways out of Poverty
To find out how cases like “get out of” are handled, where out can be considered part of the phrasal verb “get out,” I raised a question myself, asking if the AP editors share the position of the Chicago Manual of Style regarding “get out of” (see below). Their answer opened with, “Yes, we agree with our friends in Chicago.”
This confirms that out of is capitalized in AP style when out is part of a phrasal verb, and is not capitalized else:
How to Get Out of Debt
Thinking out of the Box

APA Style

The APA style manual does not discuss how to handle out of, but the titles of articles published by the APA show that it is capitalized. Here are two examples:
Out of Sight, Out of Sync: Understanding Conflict in Distributed Teams.
Source: APA PsycNet
It’s Out of My Hands! Grasping Capacity May Not Influence Perceived Object Size
Source: APA PsycNet

Bluebook Style

While the Bluebook does not explicitly mention the capitalization of out of, one of its example titles shows that it is capitalized in Bluebook style:
Tales Out of Law School; Repeat After Us: It’s Nothing Like ‘L.A. Law’
Source: The Bluebook, whitepages, section 16.2

Chicago Style

The Chicago Manual of Style has addressed the capitalization of out of in the Q & A section of their website. There they state that out of is lowercased in Chicago style, citing this example:
Bat out of Hell
However, in an update to their original answer, they point out a special case: In “getting out of,” out is part of the phrasal verb “get out,” functioning as an adverb, and should thus be capitalized:
Getting Out of Saigon

MLA Style

The MLA Handbook states that prepositions are not capitalized when they fall in the middle of a title, and cites several prepositions as examples, including the two-word preposition according to. This seems to indicate that out of shouldn’t be capitalized either, and that is confirmed by several examples on the MLA website:
Staying out of Trouble
Making Opportunities out of Problems
Since adverbs are capitalized in MLA style, out should arguably be capitalized when used as part of a phrasal verb, even when followed by of (just like in Chicago style, see above):
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

New York Times Style

As already explained in the first section, the word out is always capitalized in New York Times style, and naturally this includes out of. Recent headlines of the New York Times confirm this:
Uruguay Wasn’t Supposed to Run Out of Water
NASA’s Voyager 2 Is Out of Contact but Not Lost in Space

Wikipedia Style

The Wikipedia Manual of Style explicitly states that the first word of a compound preposition should be capitalized and illustrates this with the following example:
Time Out of Mind


These rules may look daunting, but you don’t have to memorize them. Instead, you can use the Title Case Converter, a free tool that will capitalize your titles according to the style guide of your choice, taking all the individual rules into account.
Photo: iStock.com/JaysonPhotography