How to Capitalize Headlines
- On August 4, 2020
Big Tech is Watching You
Who is Watching Big Tech?
That ominous headline jumped out at me—for its menacing message and the incorrect way it is formatted. In both lines, the word is should be capitalized.
Many people think all little words should be lowercased in a headline, but that’s not the case. Little words that are verbs, like is, get the uppercase treatment as do all pronouns—who, it, us, and her, among them.
I like the guidelines from The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage. Here’s what it has to say about headline capitalization:
Capitalize all nouns, pronouns, and verbs, as well as all words that are four or more letters. In addition to short verbs like is and pronouns like it and us, seven other little words always get capitalized when they appear in headlines: no, nor, not, off, out, so, and up. Infinitive verbs, e.g., to Do, to Go, and to Be, get treated just like that, i.e., with a lower case to and the actual verb in uppercase, as in, Here’s What Companies Are Promising to Do to Fight Racism.
Things get a little trickier when little prepositions like in—not typically uppercased in headlines—are considered part of a verb. In those cases, they do get the uppercase treatment. Here’s an example from a recent news headline: With Well-Timed Bets, Insiders Cash In on Sprint for a Vaccine. In this case, cash in is the verb, so in gets capitalized.
For more advice on correct capitalization, read, Upper or Lower? That Is the Question. And remember, the most important thing is to pick a style and stick with it.
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