Title capitalization is icky. It's grammatical, there are different varieties, and it's not something readers pay extensive attention to.
But if you're looking for a shiny title, here's a basic guide on capitalization rules~
1. Always capitalize the first and last word
A bit of a given: The Hunger Games.
This includes the verbs "am," "is," "was," and "be," and possessive pronouns like "his," "her," and "our."
3. Keep lowercase:
- Articles. (The, a, an.)
- Prepositions.* (In case you’re not familiar with prepositions, they’re words that link nouns with other words: on, around, at, with, from.)
- Conjunctions.** (Coordinating conjunctions link independent clauses: for, and, nor, but, or, so. Subordinating conjunctions link dependent clauses with independent clauses: since, that, because, after, although, unless.)
*Some people choose to capitalize prepositions because of their length. This includes “ahead,” “below,” and “except.” You can pretty much use your common sense to tell whether it should be lowercase or capitalized, but there are a few tricky ones, like “with” and “from.” (“With” and “from” should remain lowercase.)
**The same applies for conjunctions; if it's five letters or above, feel free to capitalize it.
4. Colons, Parentheses, and Commas
For the writers with crazy titles.
Colons are easy; just capitalize the word after them, regardless of what it is:
- Danny: The Champion of the World
- Hogwarts: A History
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Parentheses! If the parenthetical expression is serving as an alternate title, the first word's capitalized; treat it like its own title.
- Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
If the parenthetical expression is part of the title but isn't an alternate, use regular capitalization rules.
- "Ever Fallen in Love (with Someone You Shouldn’t Have)?"
- Captain America (Untold Stories)
If the parenthetical expression isn't part of the title at all, keep it lowercase.
- Frankenstein (revised edition)
Commas—ignore them. Pretend they're not there and carry on with your capitalizing.
- "Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed"
5. Hyphenated Expressions
This is where you use your instinct. Pick and choose the bits of the hyphenated expression that you think are most important, and capitalize them. You can check out this website for more information.
Title capitalization rules don't always apply. If a prefix serves as the first part of a hyphenated word ("ex-wife"), the following part can stay lowercase (Ex-wife, Anti-feudalism, Ultra-aware). In a hyphenated phrase, though, it's common to use title capitalization rules.
6. Sentence Case?
Number 1 of this guide, for instance, is in sentence case.
Sentence case is basically when your title's too lengthy to bother with capitalization rules: "Worldwide record-holder for 'Most French Fries Consumed in Twenty-Three Minutes at a Vegan Restaurant,' Bob Billy Joe, attempts to set new record and dies of gluten-poisoning the following morning in his luxurious Los Angeles home at age 35, on his couch during a marathon session of rom-coms." Huge, right?
The rules for sentence case are:
- Capitalize the first letter.
- Capitalize any proper nouns, pre-capitalized phrases, etc.
It's that simple! But when do you use sentence case?
Your call, really. I prefer title case for novels/short stories/poems and sentence case for journalist stuff, like news articles. To me, "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" looks better than "I have no mouth and I must scream." But some people argue that title case is more difficult to read. You can pretty much just select what path you want to take.
So to recap, some corrected BuzzFeed article titles:
“43 Reasons 2014 Was the Best Year Ever to Be a Nerd”
“How to Make a Macaroni and Cheese Pie with a Bacon Lattice”
“Man Accidentally Shoots Mother-in-Law After Bullet Ricochets off Armadillo”
This guide encompasses common title capitalization rules. If you have any questions, comments, or additions, feel free to post below!