Pro Tip Tuesday #5: Title Case Capitalizes More Words Than You Think

When I started using macros in Word, one of the first ones I installed was Paul Beverley’s CaseNextWord, which changes the case of the next word after the cursor. I use it a lot, mostly to fix mistakes with title case in chapter titles, subheadings, and citations. More often than not, this means capitalizing words that the author left in lowercase.

The details of title case differ by style guide, but in Chicago, APA, and MLA, the rules are based primarily on the grammatical function of the word, not its length or whether it’s stressed when speaking. You can find more complete guides to title case elsewhere, but here’s a list of the types of words I often find myself capitalizing for my clients:

  • All forms of “to be”: Is, Are, Am, Was, Were, Be, Being, Been
  • All forms of other auxiliary verbs: Has, Have, Had, Having; Does, Do, Did, Doing
  • Modal auxiliary verbs: Will, Can, May, etc.
  • Pronouns: It, Its, He, Him, His, She, Her, I (of course), Me, My, We, Our, You, Your, They, Them, Their, etc.
  • Relative and demonstrative pronouns: That, Which, Who, Whom; This, That, These, Those
  • All parts of hyphenated terms that would be capitalized as standalone words (Twenty-First, Self-Confidence, Matter-of-Fact, Know-It-All), except when the first element is a prefix and not a full word (De-emphasizing, Co-owner, Anti-inflammatory). See CMOS 8.161 for more detail and nuance on this one, and note that the MLA handbook has a more restrictive rule for when the second element should be lowercase.

To check title case according to different style guides, you can use tools like Title Case Converter and Capitalize My Title.