The question is simple: When using title case, do you capitalize to in a heading or title? The answer, however, is not quite as simple. To is capitalized in certain circumstances, and not capitalized in others. Let’s look at the different cases in detail.
One of the factors that determines if to is capitalized is its grammatical function. When to is used as a preposition, then it is not capitalized:
Back to the 50s
Don’t Talk to Strangers
A much rarer case is the use of to as an adverb. Examples for that usage are the expression “to and fro” and the phrasal verbs “come to” (regain consciousness) and “pull to” (close a window or door). When used as an adverb, to must be capitalized:
Walking To and Fro
Pull the Door To and Lock It
Another function of to is to indicate that the following verb is an infinitive (to be, to drive, etc.) In this case, we have to distinguish between the title case styles.
According to the AP rules for composition titles, to is capitalized when it is part of an infinitive. This is explicitly mentioned in the AP Stylebook. The preposition to is still lowercased though.
Nothing To Lose
How To Give Feedback to Colleagues
AMA, APA, Bluebook, Chicago, MLA, New York Times, Wikipedia
In all other title case styles, to in infinitives is not capitalized:
Time to Get Away
You Don't Have to Tell Me
In addition, there are two special cases. The first word of a title is always capitalized, independent of its grammatical function:
To Infinity and Beyond
The handling of the last word of a title depends on the style that is used.
AP, Chicago, MLA, New York Times, Wikipedia
In these styles, the last word is always capitalized:
Music That You Can Dance To
AMA, APA, Bluebook
These three styles do not have a rule regarding the last word of a title, which means that a preposition at the end of a title would not be capitalized:
Know Who to Turn to
Capitalize the word to if…
- it is the first word of the title
- it is used as an adverb
- it is part of an infinitive and you are using AP style
- it is the last word of the title and you are using AP, Chicago, MLA, New York Times or Wikipedia style
Do not capitalize to in all other cases.
While it’s good to know these rules, you don’t have to memorize them. This site has a title capitalization tool which applies these rules automatically, and that includes capitalizing to in infinitives in AP style. Try if you can find an infinitive that the tool does not recognize!
Photo: Moritz Mentges