Titles: Sentence style or headline style?


In today’s post I’ll talk about the capitalization of titles—whether of books, chapters, journal articles, or sections in your blog.

If you are (or will soon be) writing papers for a college class, this will help you sort out the rules for quoting titles of books and articles for your bibliography or list of references.

We’ll discuss the two styles for capitalizing titles: sentence style and headline style.

(As an aside, if you’re quoting a title of a book or an article in a bibliography or a list of references, follow these rules regardless of how the title is actually capitalized in the original work.)

Sentence style

In sentence style capitalization, only the first word of the title is capitalized, and of course all proper names—the same way you would capitalize a sentence. (In my examples I don’t include a period. In a bibliography or a list of references, you would add a period at the end.)

    In the likeness of God

A subtitle—if there is one—is also capitalized sentence style. The format is: title, colon, subtitle.

    Not a chance: The myth of chance in modern science & cosmology
    Cracking Da Vinci’s code: The hidden agenda unveiled

Sentence style is used for titles of books and articles in a list of references (see my post on the author-date method of citation). It’s also a good style to use if you have many long titles in your document.

You’ll notice that I use sentence style for the title and the section headings of this post. Like Chicago†, I am a “down” style kind of guy: too many capitals make me uncomfortable. (Queen Victoria, as we saw last time, clearly was “up” style—see the first footnote to my previous post.)

Headline style

In headline style capitalization, on the other hand, all the major words of the title are capitalized. Headline style is commonly used for quoting titles of books and articles in the text of a document, as well as for titles of books and articles in a bibliography (which is different from a list of references).

Here are the rules for capitalizing words using headline style:

(1) always capitalize the first and last word (both of the title and the subtitle), and capitalize all major words (nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, verbs)

    The Marriage You’ve Always Dreamed Of.

(2) lowercase all articles (the, an, a)

    Not a Chance
    For the Birds

(3) lowercase the conjunctions and, but, for, or, nor

    500 Popular Annuals and Perennials for American Gardeners

(4) lowercase all prepositions regardless of length, unless they are used as adverbs or adjectives (or part of a verb phrase)

    The Holiness of God
    The Bible in Translation
    but: Bringing Up Boys

(5) for hyphenated words, capitalize the first element; capitalize the second element only if it’s a proper name or adjective.*

    The Non-Semitic Languages of Ethiopia.

Computer tip

To quickly capitalize a word that’s lower case, highlight the word, hold down the Shift key and press F3. The first time, it may change the word to all-caps. If so, press F3 again (while still holding down the Shift key). You can do this with a whole phrase as well but it will capitalize every word so you may have to change individual words back afterwards.

Go for it!

Ready to give it a try? Capitalize the following book titles first in sentence style and then in headline style.

1. what perennial where: the creative guide to choosing the best perennials for every area of your garden

2. first aid & cpr manual: a practical guide for first aid & cpr at home and at work

3. creatures that glow: a book about bioluminescent animals

4. what wives wish their husbands knew about women: the popular host of focus on the family talks about marriage

5. where is god when it hurts?

See my answers below.

Dirk

dirk_kievit@editors.ca
www.DirkKievit.org

Today’s post was compiled from articles in The Chicago Manual of Style. See paragraphs 8.164–167 in the 15th edition or paragraphs 8.155–157 in the 16th edition.

Image at top courtesy of Free Digital Photos. Please be advised to use discretion with this website.

*There’s a more complex alternative where the other elements are capitalized if they are major words etc.

Chicago is my shorthand for The Chicago Manual of Style.

Answers

Sentence style:

1. What perennial where: The creative guide to choosing the best perennials for every area of your garden

2. First aid & CPR manual: A practical guide for first aid & CPR at home and at work

3. Creatures that glow: A book about bioluminescent animals

4. What wives wish their husbands knew about women: The popular host of Focus on the Family talks about marriage

5. Where is God when it hurts?

Headline style:

1. What Perennial Where: The Creative Guide to Choosing the Best Perennials for Every Area of Your Garden

2. First Aid & CPR Manual: A Practical Guide for First Aid & CPR at Home and at Work

3. Creatures That Glow: A Book about Bioluminescent Animals

4. What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew about Women: The Popular Host of Focus on the Family Talks about Marriage

5. Where Is God When It Hurts?

Questions? Comments? Use the “comment” button.

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