The English language is replete with all sorts of writing, grammar, and communication rules to follow. These rules should guide you when capitalizing titles. This guide focuses on the articles capitalized in titles and whether they are written correctly. Let’s start with a few basic concepts.
What are Articles?
Articles are words that indicate whether a noun is specific or general. They can suggest whether a noun is common or unique. There are two types of articles:
The Definite Article
A definite article refers to something specific. It can be used with singular, plural, or uncountable nouns.
“The man in the mirror.” – referring to the specific man you see in the mirror.
“The Sun and Moon.” – referring to the Sun and Moon as specific and unique objects.
In both examples, the article refers to a specific or unique noun.
The Indefinite Article
On the other hand, indefinite articles come in the forms of “a” and “an.” The forms depend on whether the next word starts with a consonant (Use “a“) or vowel (Use “an“). They refer to a noun as a general idea instead of as a particular thing.
“A baby is one of life’s most precious gifts.”
“Justin gave me an orange yesterday.”
In both examples, the article refers to the object as a general idea, and not as a specific thing.
Are Articles Capitalized in Titles?
The short answer is that all articles must be in the lowercase unless they are the first or last word. As mentioned earlier, capitalization of a word or phrase can indicate its importance. The capitalization of words largely depends on the specific rules set by the guide you are following.
Some major style guides are:
- The AP stylebook
- The Chicago Manual of Style
- AMA Manual of Style
The following section focuses on the rules for AP and Chicago styles as they are the most common style guides.
Simple Capitalization Rules
Rules can be difficult to follow when they’re confusing. We’ve taken the liberty of organizing these title capitalization rules into two general categories. This will help you easily determine the right title case to use.
Always capitalize major words such as:
Watch out for these words:
All major style guides agree that articles must be in the lowercase unless they are the first word or last word. This rule will be better explained in the examples below:
Incorrect: J.R.R. Tolkien’s the Desolation of Smaug.
Correct: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Desolation of Smaug.
Always capitalize the first word of a title. “The” is the first word of the title, therefore it must be capitalized.
Incorrect: To Kill A Mockingbird.
Correct: To Kill a Mockingbird.
The article “a” is not capitalized because it is neither the first word nor last word. All articles must be in lowercase unless they are the first or last word of the title.
For the AP style, conjunctions with 3 letters or fewer should be lowercase.
Chicago’s style requires that all conjunctions be written in the lowercase except: yet, so, and if.
Incorrect: Our teacher asked us to read Romeo And Juliet over the weekend.
Correct: Our teacher asked us to read Romeo and Juliet over the weekend.
For the AP style, prepositions with more than four letters should be capitalized.
The Chicago style recommends all prepositions must be in lowercase except when used as an adjective or adverb.
The Bottom Line
Articles capitalized in titles are only correct if they are the first or last word. Otherwise, they should all be written in the lowercase. Make sure to check out the other capitalization pointers included in this easy guide. Good luck!
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