Do you capitalize long prepositions when you prepare your book title for publishing?
The general rules for capitalization in book titles are quite straightforward. However, when it comes to prepositions, you should take care.
Short prepositions and conjunctions are generally not capitalized unless it is the first word in a title.
But when it comes to long prepositions such as underneath, throughout, and without, you have a choice.
General capitalization rules for book titles
Style manuals and guides such as APA Style, the AMA Manual of Style, The Chicago Manual of Style, and the AP Stylebook generally agree on the use of capital letters in titles.
As a rule of thumb, major words take a capital letter, and minor words are in all lowercase.
They all agree that you capitalize nouns, pronouns, verbs (including phrasal verbs), adjectives, and adverbs in a book title.
Also, the articles a, an, and the do not take a capital letter unless they are the first word in a title.
Another agreement is to capitalize the first word after a colon, em dash, or end punctuation. (Including a period, question mark, or exclamation mark.)
But when it comes to prepositions and conjunctions, the guides differ in opinion.
For example, The Chicago Manual of Style says all should use lowercase and never capitalize long prepositions.
But AP Style recommends capitalizing words of more than four letters.
Finally, APA Style says do not capitalize words of three letters or fewer.
If you are new to the rules, it can make it very confusing to know how to punctuate your new book title correctly. But here are a few tips that might help you decide on the best approach.
Should you capitalize long prepositions?
While you might follow a style guide’s recommendations, in the end, it is how your new book title looks.
If there is a long preposition or conjunction in your title, is it a major and important word or only a minor word?
That’s the basis to use when you are trying to decide.
When I searched for book titles on Amazon that include the word without, only a few used lowercase.
Here are some examples.
A Life Without Water
A Life Without Regrets
A World without You
It’s Not Summer Without You
The Kitchen without Borders
But a search for titles using the preposition, between, all the titles I found used a capital letter.
The Shadows Between Us
Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet
The Space Between Worlds
Everything Within and In Between
Communication Between Cultures
You can try a book search for titles with any long preposition, and you will almost always find that they use a capital letter.
The reason is that a title looks and reads better.
I Lived My Life underneath a Bridge.
What I Do throughout My Days
The two examples above show how awkward a title can look and read if you follow the capitalization rules for long prepositions.
Do you capitalize the word than in a book title?
The word than is a tricky one. It is both a preposition and a conjunction.
But is it a minor word or a major word?
Again, there are some books that use lowercase. But the majority use a capital letter with than.
Generally, you use the word to introduce the second part of a comparison.
Does this make it a major word?
Most style guides would say it’s minor because it only has four letters, so it should use lowercase.
But I believe that this word is an exception.
It simply looks odd and out of place when you see it in lowercase in a book title.
More Than All The Stars That Glow
You Are Stronger than You Think
More Than I Love My Life
Bigger Than Tiny, Smaller Than Average
Can you use title case?
Title case adds a capital letter to every word.
You have probably seen this text formatting option in Microsoft Word and other word processors.
It’s a choice you can make, and there’s no set rule that says you can’t use it.
I noticed many book titles on Amazon that use title case.
You also see it is used a lot for blog posts and article titles when you use a search engine. The reason is that it can help make search results stand out a little more.
But if you are a stickler for punctuation, or strictly follow a specific style guide, then it’s not for you.
Do you capitalize prepositions on a book cover?
Your title at the start of your book and when it appears on a book retailer should be correctly punctuated.
It’s up to you to decide which set of punctuation rules to follow.
But for your book cover, you can be much more imaginative with your title.
One of the most common ways to avoid any issues is to use all capital letters.
You see this style a lot on the covers of popular books.
Apart from avoiding punctuation issues, the biggest benefit is that all caps are easier to read.
Titles also stand out better and are readable even in small thumbnail images.
There are many typographical options you can use on your book cover, including small caps for prepositions.
You can almost throw out the punctuation rule book as far as your cover design is concerned because your title and author name are integral parts of the overall composition.
The options are almost limitless because punctuating titles on a book cover is not the same as for your official book title.
It’s up to you or your cover designer to decide what works best.
Capitalizing titles of books can be tricky. But when you know the rules, then you can break them.
It’s important for a new author to know how to punctuate a book title correctly, especially when to capitalize long prepositions.
The style guides I mentioned agree 95%, so most of the rules are clear and easy to follow.
It’s only the area of prepositions and conjunctions of more than three letters that is open to different interpretations.
All you can do is use what you believe will read well for your title.
I think any word of more than three letters is a significant and important word in a short title of less than six or seven words.
So it gets a capital letter in my books.
But if you have a very long title or a subtitle that is almost a sentence, well, that’s different.
That’s when you need to think carefully about your title capitalization.
Related reading: How To Pick A Title For Your New Book