Capitalize significant words in titles

Whether the title appears at the beginning of a work or is mentioned within running text, the role of capitalization is to help readers more readily distinguish a title from the adjacent text. There are various systems for doing this. Note that some reference systems for scientific and technical publications do not follow the usual guidelines, but have their own systems.

The classic system is to capitalize the initial letters of the first and last words of a title or subtitle, as well as all major (or "significant") words. Do not capitalize articles (a, an, the), conjunctions (and, but, if) or short prepositions (at, in, on, of) unless they begin the title.

For the test, be sure to read the book, How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper, but for now you can ignore The 1984 Summary of Wildlife Disease Reports.

Some systems capitalize prepositions if they contain more than four letters (between, because, until, after) and use lower case for shorter ones.

She suggested that the participants should read the new book, Weight Loss by Dieting Without Exercise. I prefer Lose Ten Pounds in Ten Days.

See Turton's 1802 classic, System of Nature After the Three Grand Kingdoms of Animals, Vegetables, and Minerals.

Others maintain that only a word's function, not its length, should determine whether to capitalize it. They feel that even long prepositions such as between nearly always are most properly put in lower case.

His career really began with the publication of his insightful work, Behavioral Interactions ofHospitalized Patients before and since the Arrival of Viagra.

The first word of hyphenated compounds in titles is nearly always capitalized; the second word often is not, although either of these styles is correct. Some authorities capitalize the word following the hyphen only if it is a noun or a proper adjective, or if it is equal in importance to the first word. The word after such prefixes as anti-, ex-, re-, and self- may or may not be capitalized.

Aspirin and Anti-Heartworm Therapy

The Role ofCancer-Inducing Agents

Observations on a Hand-reared Baboon

Short-term Goals and Long-term Management

Self-measurements ofFemoral Neck-shaft Angle

All this seeming complexity and competition between systems may change with the popularity of word processing. Most word processing software programs include a case command with the option "sentence case" which capitalizes all words in the title automatically. Authors are certainly ready to make the switch as soon as editors are ready to embrace it.

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