Capitalization is one of the most basic and significant elements of writing any academic assignment. Effective title capitalization helps retain the readers' attention when writing academic tasks. Hence, learning about the proper capitalization of titles is essential for readers and writers.
In this case, the rules may come across as complex, but most of the capital words fall under just a few big-picture categories. Once you understand these categories, the titles of your academic papers will be easier to follow.
Now, let’s ponder over the right ways to use capitalization in titles.
The rules of capitalization in titles
1. You can capitalize words with more than five letters and longer (In case of book titles)
Even if some of the words are prepositions or conjunctions, which aren’t generally capitalized, they should be capitalized if they are five letters or more.
Sometimes the authors follow the citation styles, which come with exceptions to this rule. For instance, in MLA style, capitalization in titles involves words with four or more letters. In the case of the Chicago Manual of Style, the capitalization of titles doesn't depend on the word length. In APA style, the capitalization of titles involves five or more words. You should keep the guidelines of citation style in mind when writing the title of a book.
2. Capitalize the first and last words of the title
Regardless of the word length and whether the word is an article, conjunction, preposition, or the first and last words, it should always be capitalized.
For example, in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, the word “to” is capitalized even though it's a proposition that's less than five letters.
3. Check all the nouns and make sure they’re capitalized
A noun is defined as a word that refers to a person, animal, place, thing, or idea. So, you must capitalize all nouns, even if they’re less than five letters.
For instance, in the title Animal Farm, the word "animal" has to be capitalized because it's an animal, and “farm” needs to be capitalized because it’s a thing.
4. Capitalize the verbs in the title
Verbs are words that indicate a physical or mental action or a state of being. Capitalize all verbs, even if they are made of fewer than five letters. For instance, in the title How to Win Friends and Influence People, “win” is capitalized because it’s an action verb, even though it’s less than five letters.
In this case, some common verbs can cause difficulty. These verbs are: be, been, are, is, am, was, and were. For instance, in the title, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, “am” is capitalized because it’s a verb that highlights the action of being.
5. Use capitals for adverbs
Adverbs alter the verbs and explain where, when, or how an action is completed. Adverbs often end in "ly," but that's not always the case. Capitalize any adverbs, even if they’re less than five letters long.
For example, the word “barefoot” in the novel, Running Barefoot is capitalized because it explains how one is running.
Sometimes, the conjunction/preposition “but” will serve as an adverb and need to be presented in capitals in such situations. When it’s presented as an adverb, it will immediately follow a verb and can be replaced by words like “just” or "only." For instance, in the title Life Is But a Dream, “but” is capitalized because it explains the verb "is."
6. Never capitalize conjunctions
Conjunctions are words that join other words or groups of words together. Common conjunctions are words like "and," "our," "nor." Conjunctions should only be capitalized if they’re five letters or more in length.
For instance, in the novel The Old Man and the Sea, the word “and” is un-capitalized because it’s a conjunction that’s of lesser importance and is only used to join groups of words together.
Irrespective of the length, conjunctions are to be capitalized if they’re the first or last word of the title.
7. Leave articles lowercase
Articles are included to highlight whether a noun is specific or non-specific. Articles in English include “the,” which is a definite article, and “a,” and “an,” which are indefinite articles.
For instance, in the title To Kill a Mockingbird, “a” is an indefinite article, so it’s not capitalized. The only time articles will be capitalized when they are the first or last word of the title. For instance, in The Great Gatsby, the article “the” is capitalized since it’s the first word of the title.
Now that you're familiar with all the rules of title capitalization, your chances of making any mistakes in your academic papers are reduced. This will ensure you're titles of academic tasks turn out perfectly flawless.
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