Prepositions, or at least short prepositions, are usually not capitalized in title case. This includes the preposition up (except in New York Times style). However, more often than not, up is not used as a preposition, and then it must be capitalized. Let’s look at the different cases.
New York Times Style
If you follow New York Times style, capitalizing up is really easy. The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage specifically lists up as a word that is always capitalized in headings, so it is capitalized even when used as a preposition.
Running Up That Hill
AMA, AP, APA, Bluebook, Chicago, MLA, New York Times, Wikipedia Style
In these seven styles, the capitalization of up depends on its grammatical function in the title. Up can be used in three grammatical functions: adverb, adjective, and preposition.
Up as an Adverb
Up is often used as an adverb particle in phrasal verbs such as “call up,” “heat up,” “start up,” or “think up.” In this case, it must be capitalized, since adverbs are always capitalized in title case.
Can’t Make Up My Mind
Beam Me Up, Scotty
Wake Up and Smell the Coffee
Note that up can also function as an adverb outside of phrasal verbs:
Go Up and Never Stop
Looking Up at the Stars
Up as an Adjective
Up can also be used as an adjective, in which case it must be capitalized, just like all other adjectives:
Mr. Monk Is Up All Night
You’re Up Next
Sales Are Up This Month
Up as a Verb
When used as a verb, up must be capitalized as well:
Five Ways to Instantly Up Your Style Game
Ready to Up the Ante?
Up as a Preposition
However, when used as a preposition, up is not capitalized, as mentioned above.
Nothing up My Sleeve
Climb up the Wall
The Englishman Who Went up a Hill
As usual, the title case rule of always capitalizing the first word in a title takes precedence, so up is capitalized in that position even when used as a preposition:
Up the Coast
Capitalizing Up in Hyphenated Words
Up is usually capitalized in hyphenated words, regardless of its position in the word:
Click Here to Stay Up-to-Date
Medical Student’s Get-Up-and-Go Attitude
A Wake-Up Call
However, this is not always the case when using AMA style. In AMA style, up would be capitalized in
Experienced Make-Up Artists
but not in
Lower Start-up Costs
This is explained in detail in a separate article, Capitalizing Hyphenated Words in Titles.
Capitalizing Up to
The phrase up to deserves special attention. There are two cases to distinguish:
- When up to forms a unit, it is a preposition (see Merriam-Webster). It then has the meaning “as far as”, “as many as,” “until,” or similar. An example would be “up to my knees in water.”
- It is also possible that up is an adverb or adjective followed by the preposition or infinitive marker to. For example, in “sign up to our newsletter,” up is an adverb in the phrasal verb “sign up.”
There is little information in the style guides about up to:
- As noted above, The New York Times always capitalizes up.
- The Wikipedia Manual of Style has a rule to capitalize the first word of a compound preposition.
- The AP clarified in its “Ask the Editor” section (available to subscribers) that up to is not capitalized when used as a preposition, using the example “Looking up to the Sky.”
- The Chicago Manual of Style states in its FAQ section that up to is capitalized when not used as a preposition, using the example “It’s Up to You.”
This is consistent with the treatment of “out of”, which may or may not be a two-word preposition. It seems only reasonable to treat “up to” the same as “out of.” This means:
- When up to is a preposition, it is lowercased in AP, Chicago, and MLA style:Savings of up to 25%Hike up to the SummitWhy Random Dogs Come up to YouHowever, AMA, APA, Bluebook, New York Times, and Wikipedia style, capitalize the preposition up to:Earn Up to $1500We Can Accommodate Up to 120 GuestsThe Way Up to Heaven
- When up to is not a preposition, all styles capitalize it:Keep Your Software Up to DateStanding Up to CorruptionWhat We’ve Been Up to LatelyBeen Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me
Now you know when to capitalize up and when not to capitalize it. But instead of memorizing these rules, you can leave the capitalization of your titles and headlines to the free Title Case Converter.
Photo: Fab Lentz