What Is Title Case? | Explanation & Worksheet

Title case is a capitalization style or convention used for writing the titles of published works.

A capitalization style defines which words or letters should be written in uppercase and which ones should be written in lowercase. In title case, the first letter of each word in the title should be capitalized except for certain small words like “a,” “the,” and “of.”

Example: Title case
I read The Catcher in the Rye yesterday.

Title case is used for capitalizing the words in a title, subtitle, or heading. It’s commonly used in newspaper headlines, as well as the titles of books, movies, and video games. Due to this, title case is also known as “headline style.”

Note
The titles of longer works (e.g., books, movies) are generally italicized, while the titles of shorter works (e.g., articles, poems) are usually enclosed in quotation marks.

However, different style guides may have different rules. It’s important to consistently follow the rules outlined in your chosen style guide. You can also use the Scribbr citation generator, which automatically proposes the correct capitalization for citations.

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What to capitalize in title case

With title case, you always capitalize the first word and (usually) the last word of a title. How you render the rest of the words depends on whether they are considered major or minor words.

The following parts of speech are considered minor words and are typically not capitalized:

All other words are considered major words and are capitalized:

  • Nouns (“pen,” “flower,” “ocean”)
  • Pronouns (“I,” “her,” “these”)
  • Verbs (“forget,” “build,” “do”)
  • Adverbs (“now,” “slowly,” “here”)
  • Adjectives (“adorable,” “fresh,” “sarcastic”)
Example: Minor and major words in title case
I prefer Pride and Prejudice over Emma.

Lord of the Flies is one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read.

In Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee plays a Shaolin monk recruited by British intelligence.

The most common age group for Call of Duty players is 21–35.

However, minor words are capitalized when they are the first word of the title.

  • A Clockwork Orange was directed by Stanley Kubrick.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo tells the story of a young man who is wrongfully imprisoned.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird has been banned in some schools.

It is important to keep in mind that different style guides, like APA Style, MLA, or Chicago Style, have slightly different rules regarding capitalization. More specifically, they differ in how they render:

Prepositions

Some style guides like MLA use lowercase for all prepositions, regardless of their length. Others, like APA and AP, only use lowercase for prepositions up to three letters.

Example: Title case prepositions 
APA/AP/AMA: All About Eve is a 1950’s classic movie still appreciated for its acid wit.

MLA/Chicago: All about Eve is a 1950’s classic movie still appreciated for its acid wit.

Coordinating conjunctions

There are seven coordinating conjunctions in English. They can be remembered using the mnemonic device FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.

Most major style guides use lowercase for all seven coordinating conjunctions. One exception is Chicago style, which uses lowercase for all except “yet” and “so.”

Example: Title case coordinating conjunctions
APA/AP/AMA/MLA: Lost yet Found: A Journey of Discovery is a solo hiker’s travel memoir on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Chicago: Lost Yet Found: A Journey of Discovery is a solo hiker’s travel memoir on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Subordinating conjunctions

In APA, “as” and “if” are written in lowercase, while in Chicago “as” is written in lowercase and “if” is capitalized. AMA and MLA capitalize both.

Example: Title case subordinating conjunctions
AP/APA: Grab On to Me Tightly as if I Knew the Way 

AMA/MLA: Grab On to Me Tightly As If I Knew the Way

Chicago: Grab On to Me Tightly as If I Knew the Way

Last word

In some styles, the last word is always capitalized, regardless of whether it is a major or minor word. Other style guides have no such rule and the last word is in lowercase.

Example: Capitalizing the last word
MLA/Chicago/AP: The movie And the Band Played On is based on a book.

AMA/APA: The movie And the Band Played on is based on a book.

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Title case vs. sentence case

Title case and sentence case are two common capitalization styles that differ in how they capitalize words.

  • In title case, the initial letter of every major word is in uppercase, while minor words are in lowercase. Title case is most frequently used for headings and titles of books, movies, and other works of art.
  • In sentence case only the first word of a sentence is capitalized, along with any proper nouns (names of people, places, etc.).The rest of the words in the sentence are in lowercase, regardless of their grammatical role. This style is mostly used in standard writing, but it is also commonly used in headlines, headings, and subheadings.
Example: Title case vs. sentence case
Title case: Firefighters Struggle to Control Raging Greek Wildfires

Sentence case: Firefighters struggle to control raging Greek wildfires

While sentence case is consistent across styles, some style guides differ in their rules for using title case.

Title case converter

If you are in doubt about whether your headline is capitalized correctly, there are a few free online tools you can use to help you check your work, including:

Titlecaseconverter.com

This converter allows you to choose one or multiple style guides for your output text (including AP, APA, and Chicago). It can also highlight and explain changes. Once you have entered your text, you simply click the “convert” button.

Convertcase.net

To use this online converter, you can either type or copy-paste your text on the left, and it will be automatically transformed into title case on the right. You can download the output as a .txt file or select “copy to clipboard.”

Titlecase.com

This is a simple converter that transforms your text into title case as well as AP-style title case. Similar to the others, it allows you to type or copy-paste your text, and once you press “convert” the output appears below.

Worksheet: Title case

With the worksheet below, you can test your understanding of how title case works. Fill in one of the two options in each sentence.

  1. One of Boticelli’s most famous works is____________[the Birth Of Venus/The Birth of Venus]
  2. I borrowed _________[Of Mice and Men/of Mice and Men] a while ago, but never managed to finish the first chapter.
  3. I love your___________ [Lord of the Rings notebook/Lord of the Rings Notebook].
  1. One of Boticelli’s most famous works is The Birth of Venus.
    • “The” is capitalized because it is the first word of the title. 
    • “Birth” is capitalized because it is a major word (noun).
    • “Of” is not capitalized because it is a preposition. 
    • “Venus” is capitalized because it is major word (proper noun)
  1. I borrowed Of Mice and Men a while ago, but never managed to finish the first chapter.
    • “Of” is capitalized because it is the first word of the title despite being a preposition.
    • “Mice” is capitalized because it is a noun.
    • “And” is not capitalized because it is a coordinating conjunction.
    • “Men” is capitalized because it is the last word of the title.
  1. I love your Lord of the Rings notebook.
    • Here, “Lord of the Rings” is the title and also a compound adjective (like “error-free,” “kind-hearted,” etc.) modifying the noun (“notebook”). For this reason, we need to stop applying title case when we are finished writing the title (“Lord of the Rings”).

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      Frequently asked questions about title case

      What is capitalization in grammar?

      Capitalization is the practice of using uppercase or capital letters in writing to indicate the beginning of a sentence or to emphasize certain words or types of words within a sentence.

      For example, capitalizing place names, family names, and days of the week are all standard in English. Different capitalization styles, like title case and sentence case, apply different rules when it comes to which letters to capitalize.

      What do you capitalize in a title?

      Which words you capitalize depends on the capitalization style you use. Title case and sentence case are two common capitalization styles that follow different rules:

      • In title case, the initial letter of every major word (such as a verb) is capitalized, while minor words (such as coordinating conjunctions) are typically in lowercase. Title case is most frequently used for headings and the titles of published works.
      • In sentence case, only the first word of a sentence is capitalized, along with any proper nouns (names of specific people, places, etc.).

      However, these rules may vary. Follow the advice outlined in your style guide.

      Cite this Scribbr article

      If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

      Nikolopoulou, K. (2023, September 03). What Is Title Case? | Explanation & Worksheet. Scribbr. Retrieved February 29, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-writing/title-case/

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      Kassiani Nikolopoulou

      Kassiani has an academic background in Communication, Bioeconomy and Circular Economy. As a former journalist she enjoys turning complex scientific information into easily accessible articles to help students. She specializes in writing about research methods and research bias.