|Photo by Chumsdock, Flickr.com|
Let’s begin at the beginning. I stopped at a bookstore to pick up a new novel by one of my favorite authors. I’ve wanted to read it ever since it came out, and it was my great fortune to acquire the last copy on the shelf. While on my way to pay for it, I stopped to peek at an enticingly-colored flyer on the bulletin board, announcing the upcoming release of a new novel by another favorite writer.
I gasped. My heart fluttered. I blinked and looked again to be sure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me—they do that sometimes, you know. This time they saw what they saw. Above the image of the positively captivating cover, the words in the title jumped out at me, all seven of them. Now seven is a perfectly nice number, but only the title’s first word was capitalized. The other six were apparently considered too insignificant by the person who prepared the flyer to begin with a capital letter. While this sentence-style capitalization is often used in reference lists and library catalogs, I seemed to recall that book titles in most written formats should follow the rules of headline-style capitalization.
My mind began to churn. I headed for the shelf where my trusty grammar guide, the Chicago Manual of Style, sat a bit forward of the other books, as though anticipating my imminent arrival. I reached for it, hurried to a nearby table, and opened the index in the back. My practiced finger ran down the possibilities in each column, scurried to the chosen reference, and moved slowly past each line as my eyes perused the rules. Yes, yes, it was just as I remembered: all nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and some conjunctions in a book title should be capitalized.
I read the rule again. Now, mind you, my reading ability is totally intact. I just wanted to be sure that nothing had changed, but it had—more on that in a moment. Now don’t get in a dither; much is the same. You know that prepositions, unless they function as adjectives or adverbs, should normally be lower case. However, if they begin or end the title, it is appropriate to capitalize them (ex.: Of Mice and Men). Check the CMOS for other exceptions. Remember that to is lower case, also, when it appears as part of an infinitive. Similarly, as should always be lower case unless it begins the title (ex., As You Like It); so should conjunctions and, but, or, for, and nor. The list could go on, but I do want to get to that change before I must leave. If I’m even a minute late, those ever-so-punctual girls will make sure I never hear the end of it.
In the past, the recommendation has been that the second element of a hyphenated word or number be lower case. Now, however, CMOS acknowledges the functional equality of the second element and therefore notes that it, too, should be capitalized. (Think “Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall.")
Oh, my goodness, look at the time! If I don’t dash away this moment, I will surely be late. Ta-ta, dearies. I’ll see you again soon. Do check Chicago’s sixteenth edition if you have the slightest doubt about this change or the proper use of headline-style capitalization.
|Photo courtesy of Darrick Bartholomew|
When time and schedule permit, the Style Maven relaxes on her porch with a mid-morning cup of tea and her favorite book, the Chicago Manual of Style. Other times, her alter ego busies herself knitting doggie vests and sundry other pretties. Do stop by and say hello to her at The Procraftinator.