Title Capitalization Rules and Examples

At first glance, title capitalization rules seem quite easy: capitalizing the first letter of every word. Actually, it’s not that simple and not all words are capitalized. So, to make you clear about title capitalization rules, here we’re going to discuss several common capitalization rules related to titles of people, professional and honorary, as well as creative works.

title capitalization rules

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Titles of People (Courtesy)

The first title capitalization rules in our discussion are titles of people. The titles of people are always abbreviated when they precede a proper name, for instance, Mistress or Missus (Mrs.), Mister (Mr.), and Doctor. You should capitalize the abbreviations and punctuate them with a period at the end of them. Although the title “Ms.” doesn’t stand for another word, you should follow it with a period for the sake of consistency.

The following examples of German, Spanish, and French courtesy titles may also be abbreviated when a name follows them:

    German: Frau (Fr)
    Spanish: Señora (Sra.), Señorita (Srta.), Señor (Sr.)
    French: Madame (Mme.), Mademoiselle (Mlle.), Monsieur (M.)

Titles of People (Professional and Honorary)

The next title capitalization rules are for profesional and honorary titles of people. When professional, military, religious, and honorary titles appear before a name or are used as a name in dialog, you should capitalize them.

    The meeting will be chaired by Professor Billy Jones.
    Could you please explain your theory once again, Professor?
    Pope John XXIII will visit our town this year.

If these titles don’t come before a name, leave them in lowercase.

    William was appointed chairman of the education committee last year.
    The lieutenant lost both of his legs on the battlefield.

However, lowercase these titles if they follow a name as an appositive or are used generally.

    Frank S. Smith, professor of physics, was greatly respected and known as internationally figures.
    He is a professor of physics at University of London.

Abbreviations Preceding a Name

You can use the abbreviations for the following titles with a full name:

    Capt. = Captain
    Gen. = General
    Hon. = Honorable
    Prof. = Professor
    Rev. = Reverend
    Sen. = Senator

However, you have to spell out the title if the given name is only a last name.

    Capt. Taylor (incorrect)
    Captain Taylor (correct)

Abbreviations Following a Name

You should capitalize academic degrees following a name and set off commas whether they are abbreviated or not. In general reference, however, academic degrees should be set lowercase.

    Daniela Rose, M.A.,…
    Daniela Rose, Master of Arts,…
    A master of arts degree is required for this job.

Normally, abbreviations of academic titles are styled with internal periods, but not for those professional titles.

    Benjamin Dunne, M.B.A., has gone into business with Rebecca Stones, CPA.

Abbreviations Before and After a Name

Do not use two different title abbreviations with the same meaning at the same time; before and after a name.

    Dr. Daniel Ward, M.D.; the Honorable Emma Charlotte, Esq. (incorrect)
    Correct: Dr. Daniel Ward or Daniel Ward, M.D.; the Honorable Emma Charlotte or Emma Charlotte, Esq. (correct)

The Preceding Titles

If the titles Reverend and Honorable are preceded by the article “the”, they should be spelled out.

    the Rev. Macleod
    the Reverend Macleod or Rev. Macleod
    the Hon. George Bane
    the Honorable George Bane or Hon. George Bane

Titles of Works

The title capitalization rules for creative works such as books, paintings, and movies slightly vary between style guides. They, however, have the same common rules in order to distinguish titles from the surrounding words. In general, you should capitalize most words in the title, including nouns, verbs, adjectives, and proper nouns. That means you should set articles, conjunctions, and preposition in lowercase. In addition, the title as a whole is either set in italics or enclosed within quotation marks.

    I was so impressed by the story line of Oh My God when I first watched it.
    Their story is the subject of a new book titled “The Phoenix and the Turtle”.

Capitalization of Titles

You should capitalize the first letter of the first and last word in a title. Words like articles, coordinating conjunctions, the “to” in infinitives, and prepositions of less than five letter are set in lowercase; all other words, including nouns, proper noun, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and proper nouns should be capitalized. A preposition should be capitalized if only it stands as part of a verb.

    A Little Thing Called Love
    How to Write Great Short Stories
    Getting Out

Italicized Titles

You should set the title of following works in italic type:

    ballets and modern dance pieces
    books (including poetry collections and anthologies of short stories and essays)
    book-length poems
    movies (including made-for-TV movies and animated movies)
    operas and other long musical compositions
    paintings, sculptures, and other works of art
    radio shows
    record albums
    television series

Titles in Quotation Marks

You should set the titles of these following works in roman type within quotation marks:

    comic strips
    magazine articles
    newspaper articles
    short stories
    short poems
    television episodes

Articles at the Beginning of Titles

If a title of work begins with articles (a, an, and the) and follows a possessive, you can omit the article to improve the flow of the sentence.

    The professor assigned John Locke’s The Second Treatise of Civil Government. (incorrect)
    The professor assigned John Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government. (correct)
    I think Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal is a satire at its best. (incorrect)
    I think Jonathan Swift’s Modest Proposal is a satire at its best. (correct)

Titles after Prepositions

Do not italicize a title after a preposition if the words of the title function as the preposition’s object.

    Nicolaus Copernicus’s On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres… (incorrect)
    Nicolaus Copernicus’s On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres… (acceptable)
    Nicolaus Copernicus’s Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres… (better)

    Darwin’s book on the Origin of Species was considered an attack on the religious view of the way life began by some people. (incorrect)
    Darwin’s book on the Origin of Species was considered an attack on the religious view of the way life began by some people. (acceptable)
    Darwin’s Origin of Species was considered an attack on the religious view of the way life began by some people. (advisable)

Well, that’s all the discussion about a quick guide of title capitalization rules. If you’re looking for another English lesson about English grammar rules, vocabulary, or text genres, you can click on the given categories or check out ContohText’s index page.

“Titles of People (Courtesy).;Titles of People (Professional and Honorary).;Titles of Works.” Microsoft Student 2009. DVD. Redmond, WA, USA: Microsoft Corporation, 2008.
In text: (“Titles of People (Courtesy);Titles of People (Professional and Honorary);Titles of Works”)

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