Common title capitalization rules

Title capitalization rules in English and German differ, which leads to frequent confusion among students. While the various style guides might have slightly different requirements, there are some general rules which can be consistently relied upon.



Generally, the following word types are capitalized in titles: nouns, pronouns, proper nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs. Proper nouns are always capitalized (even in prose), and pronouns only rarely appear in titles. The first letter of the title is also capitalized, regardless of the word to which it belongs. Consider this example:


An Amateur Paleontologist’s Report of His Attempt to Analyze Ventral Structures of a Recently Discovered Anomalocaris briggsi Fossil


This example contains each kind of capitalized word. The first word is capitalized, even though it is an indefinite article and therefore not among the words normally capitalized. The other indefinite article is not capitalized, nor are the prepositions and conjunctions. This is because these words have less semantic value and are instead grammar words used to structure sentences. Note that the proper noun (the name of the fossil) is an exception, as its second word is not capitalized due to the rules of naming species.


However, there is another pattern which may be followed, particularly for longer titles. If the title is a complete sentence, then it may be written with prose capitalization rules, though these complete sentences could also be written according to the previous example’s rules. This is particularly useful if the title is a question to be answered by the paper.


What are the ventral structures of this recently discovered Anomalocaris briggsi fossil?


An analysis of ventral structures of a new Anomalocaris briggsi fossil could overturn previous theories about the species.


Importantly, the titles of the sections must be consistent. Regardless of the rules you select, use the same ones throughout the paper and ensure that the chapter titles match the table of contents.


For those of you who are still unsure of what should be written in uppercase and lowercase, there is this helpful online tool. Simply enter the respective chapter heading or the title of your work, and the page will create the correct spelling for you.


Tags: Spelling, heading, title