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Capitalizing Composition Titles, Part II
Some may question the need for a two-part series on this esoteric topic. But even those who consider themselves top-notch at identifying parts of speech in
a word grouping will find composition-title capitalization a skill worth mastering.
Any title of more than two words can be a challenge. How would you capitalize a title such as not yet rich? Since the first and last word in any
title are always capitalized, the only question is whether to cap yet. In this case, yet is an adverb, and adverbs are always capped. So
make it Not Yet Rich.
Now suppose the title is rich yet miserable. This time yet is one of the seven coordinating conjunctions (the others are and, or, nor, but, for, and so). Since coordinating conjunctions are not capitalized in titles, the right answer is Rich yet Miserable.
Here are two correctly capitalized titles: Going up the Road and Going Up in a Balloon. In the first title, up is a preposition,
and short prepositions are not capitalized. In the second title, Up is an adverb and should be capped.
Along the same lines, compare the following three titles: I Got It off the Internet, Please Put It Off for Today, and I Hit the Off Switch. In the first example, the preposition off is lowercase. But the word must be capped in the second example because put off, meaning “to postpone,” is a two-word phrasal verb (a verb of two or more words). One-word verbs, auxiliary verbs, and phrasal
verbs are always capitalized. Off is also capped in the third sentence because the word functions as an adjective in that title, and adjectives
are always capitalized.
Although the seven coordinating conjunctions are not capitalized, you may have noticed there are many more than seven conjunctions in English. Most of
these are called subordinating conjunctions, because they join a subordinate clause to a main clause. Familiar examples include as, although, before, since, until, when.
There are three approaches to capping subordinating conjunctions: capitalize them all, lowercase them all, or capitalize them if they are words of four
letters or more. Take your pick.
Try applying your own composition-capitalization policy to any sentence you see or hear. This is a great mental exercise, which will help keep you well
grounded in the fundamentals of our language.
Because of the e-newsletter’s large readership, please submit your English usage questions through GrammarBook.com’s “Grammar Blog.”
Capitalize the following titles. Extra credit: indicate which words could go either way. Answers are below.
1. oh, how i hate to get up in the morning
2. we will be there although it is madness
3. always look up as you go down the road
4. i thought it had no on button
5. pick me up on your way over here
6. my work: the search for a life that matters
7. have you heard of that of which I speak?
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If you take a laptop computer for a run, you could jog your memory.
The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine is now fully recovered.
A boiled egg is hard to beat.
Pop Quiz Answers
1. Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning (OR how)
2. We Will Be There Although It Is Madness (OR although)
3. Always Look Up As You Go down the Road (as and down could go either way)
4. I Thought It Had No On Button
5. Pick Me Up on Your Way over Here (OR Over)
6. My Work: The Search for a Life That Matters
7. Have You Heard Of That of Which I Speak?
Learn all about who and whom, affect and effect, subjects and verbs, adjectives and adverbs, commas, semicolons, quotation marks, and much more by just sitting back and enjoying these easy-to-follow lessons. Tell your colleagues (and boss), children, teachers, and friends. Click here to watch.