Grammar Writing Techniques 5 min2023-03-06 00:00

List of Words NOT Capitalized in Titles: 30+ to Not Get Wrong

list of words not capitalized

Remembering which words should be capitalized in titles can be tricky. 

So, which words should be capitalized, and which ones should be left in lowercase?

In titles, the general rule is you should capitalize the first word and the last word, as well as all nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs. Articles, prepositions that have fewer than four letters, and coordinating conjunctions shouldn’t be capitalized.

Read on to learn more about title capitalization rules and which words you shouldn’t capitalize in titles.

Different Capitalization Rules 

Capitalization means writing the first letter of a word in uppercase rather than lowercase. 

The rules for capitalization in titles of articles, books, papers, speeches, and other documents vary by style guide. These style guides include The Associated Press Stylebook (AP), the Chicago Manual of Style, and the Modern Language Association Handbook (MLA).

Most style guides recommend capitalizing nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs in the titles of books, articles, and songs. Most guides also recommend that you capitalize the first and last words in any title, no matter what part of speech those words are.

Let’s look at a few examples of this rule in practice:

  • Little House on the Prairie

  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

  • To Kill a Mockingbird

  • To the Lighthouse

When it comes to conjunctions and prepositions, style guides have differing views on whether to capitalize them or leave them in lowercase. 

The AP style guide, for example, recommends that prepositions longer than four letters should be capitalized, for example, “beneath,” “under,” and “within.” 

The Chicago style guide, however, states that prepositions should not be capitalized, regardless of their length. This includes lengthy prepositions such as “between,” “among,” and “throughout.” 

AP style requires that conjunctions with three letters or fewer are lowercase, while Chicago style calls for most coordinating conjunctions to be lowercase except for “yet” and “so.” Chicago style also specifies that the subordinating conjunction “as” should be lowercase, but the conjunction “if” should be capitalized.

According to the MLA, the first and last word of a title should be capitalized as well as “principal words.”

Principal words are words that hold significance in the title. They can be any part of speech.

The MLA also states that prepositions, coordinating conjunctions, and articles that fall in the middle of a title should not be capitalized.

If a title has a subtitle, MLA suggests using the same capitalization rules that you would use for the main title, including capitalizing the first and last word of the subtitle. If a preposition, conjunction, or article comes directly after a colon, they should also be capitalized. 

For example:

  • My Life: A Memoir

  • Genius: Inside a Brilliant Mind

  • Fifty Years Later: Or, the Story of a Successful Marriage

MLA also offers guidance for hyphenated words in titles.

You should capitalize the first word of the hyphenated word. Only capitalize the word after the hyphen if it’s a noun, a proper adjective, or equal in importance to the first word.

Here’s what that would look like:

  • The Life of a Lord-Lieutenant

  • The Biography of Joseph Gordon-Levitt

If a title contains a hyphenated word, and the second word within the hyphenation is an adjective, then that second word shouldn’t be capitalized. For example:

  • How to Achieve an Iron-rich Diet

  • A Collection of Far-fetched Tales

  • The Story of an Empty-handed Boy

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Check every email, essay, or story for grammar mistakes. Fix them before you press send.

Do You Capitalize Words Such As “the” or “to” in a Title?

All style guides agree that “to” shouldn’t be capitalized unless it’s the first or last word of a title. Let’s look at this in practice:

Incorrect: The Boy Born To Run

Correct: The Boy Born to Run

Incorrect: How To Play Chess

Correct: How to Play Chess

Incorrect: to Be or Not To Be

Correct: To Be or Not to Be

Full List of Words Not Capitalized in a Title

30 words you don't capitalize

Now that you understand capitalization rules, let’s look at the different words you shouldn’t capitalize in a title.


In English, there are three articles: “a,” “an,” and “the.” These small words normally don’t need to be capitalized in titles.

Incorrect: The Catcher in The Rye

Correct: The Catcher in the Rye

However, if the article falls at the beginning of the title, then it should be capitalized.

Incorrect: a Series of Unfortunate Events

Correct: A Series of Unfortunate Events


The AP and APA style guides recommend that conjunctions with fewer than three letters should not be capitalized. The MLA style guide, however, suggests that conjunctions remain lowercase regardless of length.

Regardless of which style guide you’re using, you’ll be safe not capitalizing the conjunctions “but,” “and,” “nor,” “or,” “for,” “so,” “as,” “if,” and “yet” unless they are the first or last word in a title.

Here’s an example of this rule:

  • The Princess and the Frog

  • A Rose for Emily

  • Come Rain or Come Shine


A preposition is a word that expresses a relationship between a noun and another word in the sentence.

Every style guide agrees that prepositions with three letters or less shouldn’t be capitalized. You shouldn’t capitalize short prepositions like “at,” “by,” “for,” and “in.”

Only capitalize prepositions if they have four or more letters, such as “about,” “beneath,” and “excluding.”

Incorrect: The Wizard Of Oz

Correct: The Wizard of Oz

Incorrect: The Fault In Our Stars

Correct: The Fault in Our Stars

Incorrect: Songs about Jane

Correct: Songs About Jane


Infinitives are verb forms that begin with the word “to” and are often used as nouns or adjectives. The word “to” doesn’t need to be capitalized in titles, even if it’s in an infinitive.

Incorrect: How To Play Chess.

Correct: How to Play Chess.

List of Words Not Capitalized in Titles

Here’s a complete list of the words that most style guides agree shouldn’t be capitalized in titles. You’ll notice they all have four letters or less:

  • A

  • And

  • As

  • At

  • But

  • By

  • Down

  • For

  • From

  • If

  • In

  • Into

  • Like

  • Near

  • Nor

  • Of

  • Off 

  • On

  • Once

  • Onto

  • Or

  • Over

  • Past

  • So

  • Than

  • That

  • To

  • Upon

  • When

  • With

  • Yet

Use ProWritingAid to Get It Right Every Time

This article is a good starting point in getting the basics of title capitalization. But we know that memorizing the rules can be tricky. Bookmark this article so you can easily reference it in the future. 

You can also use ProWritingAid to check if you’re capitalizing the right words in your writing. ProWritingAid allows you to set the style of writing for your document, whether it’s general, business, academic, etc., so you can receive custom suggestions that fit your work’s context, including any unnecessary capitalization in your sentences.

Be confident about grammar

Check every email, essay, or story for grammar mistakes. Fix them before you press send.