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Friday, October 10, 2008

Play It Again – What's In a Name: Capitalizing Those Pesky Titles

First published 7/28/08

Capitalization can be a tricky thing, and it doesn't help that there aren't cut and dry rules for it throughout. However, it can be a useful and valuable tool when transcribing.

A few general rules about when TO capitalize words:

1. The first and last words in the title are ALWAYS capitalized.

2. Capitalize all nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs and subordinate conjunctions.

3. Coordinating conjunctions and prepositions longer than five letters CAN BE capitalized. (This is optional, and these can be lowercase regardless of length if you so choose.)

When NOT TO capitalize words:

1. Lowercase "to" when used with an infinitive.

2. All articles (a, an, the) should be lowercase unless the first or last word in a title.

3. Coordinating conjunctions and prepositions less than five letters should be lowercase. (Again, this is a stylistic difference and can be all lowercase.)

A few things to remember:

* We do capitalize anything that is the first or last word, regardless of the other rules.

* Some words can function in more than one state and should be capitalized appropriately depending on usage. For example, "in" can function as a preposition or as an adverb.

* Google is your friend. If you are looking for a specific title of a book or article, you can probably locate it on Google to check the actual capitalization the author went with. However, sometimes the capitalized titles we transcribe may not exist yet, and these rules are necessary for you to fall back on.