Lets Lirn Inglish Grammer Togever

E-learning or distance learning concept

Let’s Learn English Grammar Together

The English language and its diversity never ceases to amaze me, and as a writer from England, I need to know all the grammar peculiarities of the written word. As I learn, perhaps you’d like to join my journey and follow the lessons with me. For our first lesson, I’m going to look at Capitalization of Titles.

When I look back over my earlier posts, there is inconsistency in the way I’ve written titles, and I can see I’ve made lots of errors. From now on, I aim to write titles correctly. Hopefully, the main title here will be the last one I get wrong. Let’s see what the experts recommend.

Kevin Ryan, eHow contributor, says “’Gone with the Wind’ or ‘Gone With The Wind’? Or is it something else? Improperly capitalizing titles is not an uncommon transgression for writers. Whether it is a high school essay or a professionally published article, it is important that your work adheres to the correct procedures for capitalizing the names of books, movies, songs, poems, plays, events, and any other proper titles. Fortunately for you, the rules are straightforward and easy to memorize.” He goes on to give the following rules:

“First and Last Words

Always capitalise the first and last words of a title.

Important Words

Capitalize all the important words in the title. This includes all nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, and adverbs. Note that this includes short verbs such as “Is” or “Be” and common adjectives such as “His” or “Their.”

Unimportant Words

Do not capitalize articles (a, an, the), prepositions (at, by, in, to, etc.) and conjunctions (and, but, or, for, nor) that are three letters in length or less.

Four-Letter Rule

Capitalize all words that are four letters in length or more. This includes longer prepositions such as “Before,” “With,” “Towards,” “Across,” etc.


When writing hyphenated words, always capitalize the first element. In most cases, the subsequent element will be capitalized, although some exceptions exist. The second element does not get capitalized if is a word that would not normally be capitalized in a title (“How-to”) or if it is a modifier (“B-flat”). The second element also is not capitalized if the first is a prefix (“Re-education”). But the general capitalization rules trump hyphenation rules: always capitalize the final element of a compound that appears at the end of a title.”

Kevin Ryan has published this same article in both eHow.com, and in eHow co.uk, leading the reader to believe everyone in both America and the British Isles follows the same rules.

Differences do exist, not only between countries but also within countries. In Britain, some newspapers have changed the style of their article titles over time. For instance, the Guardian newspaper now uses capitals only for the first word of a title, and other newspapers are following this trend. Some will argue this is alright because newspapers use headings not titles, for their articles.

What about titles for books? They are often wholly capitalized although not always. It seems publishing organisations differ in their acceptance of styles. Note also that book titles inside the book often differ from the format on the cover.

There are a few exceptions to the rules for capitalizing titles, but the ones Kevin Ryan outlines above, seem to cover most of what we need to know as writers.

I hope you’ve learned something from this as I have.

My next post will be about capitalization in the body of our writing.


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About caroleparkes

My husband calls me a butterfly because I flit from one hobby to another. Apart from being a wife for 52 years, a mother of three sons, and a grandmother, I'm also an author, genealogist, amateur artist, a lover of most needlecrafts, and occasional poet. Of the above, my most enduring interest has been writing and I hope to be doing it well into old age.
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27 Responses to Lets Lirn Inglish Grammer Togever

  1. geraldine says:

    Very helpful, Carole. Thank you. Bookmarked and shared.


  2. Reblogged this on sherriemiranda1 and commented:
    This is IMPORTANT! Ooops, I just broke the rules! 😉


  3. O.K. So, I have a question. My novel (coming out soon!) is titled “Secrets & Lies In El Salvador.” According to this “In” should not be capitalized because it is “unimportant,” but I believe this particular “In” is very important.
    What say you?


    • caroleparkes says:

      I think I’d still keep it without the capital letter. Please explain why you think it is an important word here.


      • “In” is important because it helps show WHERE the secrets & lies are. It’s not just anywhere.


        • caroleparkes says:

          In my view, ‘Secrets & Lies: El Salvador’ tells you everything you need to know about the book without the use of ‘in’, therefore ‘in’ is an unimportant word here. It is ultimately your choice though, so you must go with what you feel is right. Good luck with the book, I’m rooting for you.


  4. Beth Caplin says:

    I go back and forth with capitalization in my headings. I think it depends on the number of words in the title. If it’s short, I use more capitals, but if it’s longer I tend not to.


    • caroleparkes says:

      That’s a new one; I haven’t heard of that one before. There was no mention of title length in any of the google results. Do you have knowledge of a rule for this, or is it simply a personal style choice?


      • Beth Caplin says:

        I think it’s an aesthetics thing. Also, several capital letters in a row just look so…formal? I think many people looking for blogs want a more laid-back vibe? Who knows. I may just be weird.


        • caroleparkes says:

          I think you are right if we are just talking about blogging, but as an author who is trying to put out the best books I can, from now on, I’m afraid it has to be formal for me.


        • I think caps are the opposite of formal. 1) Caps are interpreted as yelling (which is NOT formal). 2) It is also thought that when all the letters are capitalized, it is harder to read. I guess that could go either way as formal often means “hard to decipher.”
          Good points either way.


  5. danniehill says:

    I think I will learn some helpful things from you Carole


    • caroleparkes says:

      I hope you will learn some useful things, but always remember, there are lots of conflicting ideas about English grammar. It is always best if you do some added research of your own as well. This post may not cover every single usage of capitals in titles; it is meant as a basic guide only.


  6. Bill Hayes says:

    Oh dear, I am sure I have transgressed in my blog. After lunch I will have to go back and check my headings. You are never too old to learn.


    • caroleparkes says:

      Don’t worry Bill, I looked back over mine and there are so many inconsistancies. Never mind though, I won’t be correcting them. Hopefully, I can look back in a year’s time and see how much I’ve learned.


  7. I actually think about this a lot. I spend quite some time thinking about how to capitalise titles. /Especially/ if there an “of” somewhere in there. This was helpful. Thank you!


  8. Thanks, I never thought about it before.


  9. marianbeaman says:

    Thanks for the tutorial, Carole.

    Liked by 1 person

I'd love to hear your views.

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