Capitalization

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Capitalization rules depend on what academic citation or paper-formatting style you are using. Most academic style manuals use two main capitalization styles: sentence-style capitalization and title-style capitalization (also called “headline-style”). However, style manuals differ on when to use the two capitalization styles.

Below are specific capitalization best practices for MLA format (9th ed.), APA 7 format, and Chicago/Turabian style.

Sentence-Style Capitalization

  • Sentence style means capitalizing as you normally would when writing a sentence, by capitalizing the following:
    • the first letter of the first word of a sentence
    • names and initials for people
    • names for days and months
    • proper nouns
    • adjectives formed with proper nouns (e.g., Freudian psychoanalysis)
    • the subject pronoun I
    • titles that come directly before a person’s name (e.g., President Biden)

Sentence-Style Capitalization Examples:

In the text:

Professor Jones assigned two essays this month, one on the Civil War and one on Abraham Lincoln.

Use sentence-style capitalization for source titles in reference lists when following APA 7 style:

A consensus statement on trauma mental health: The New Haven competency conference process and major findings

Title-Style Capitalization or Headline-Style Capitalization

  • Title-style capitalization means capitalizing the following:
    • the first word of the title
    • the last word of the title
    • other major words
  • Though style manual specifics vary, generally, do NOT capitalize the following words unless they begin a title or directly follow a colon:
    • Articles, such as a, an, and the
    • Conjunctions, such as for, and, not, but, or, or yet (FANBOYS)
    • Prepositions, such as against, between, in, of, or to

Below are specific capitalization best practices for MLA format (9th ed.), APA 7 format, and Chicago/Turabian style.

Title-Style Capitalization Example:

Use title-style or headline-style capitalization for source titles in the text when following APA 7, MLA 9, or Chicago styles, and for source titles in the references in MLA 9 or Chicago:

A Consensus Statement on Trauma Mental Health: The New Haven Competency Conference Process and Major Findings

  • MLA 9 – Capitalization Rules
    • In general, when writing an essay in MLA 9 format, use sentence case. Sentence case means capitalizing as you normally would when writing a sentence, by capitalizing the following:
      • the first letter of the first word of a sentence
      • names and initials for people
      • names for days and months
      • proper nouns
      • adjectives formed with proper nouns (e.g., Freudian psychoanalysis)
      • the subject pronoun I
      • titles that come directly before a person’s name (e.g., President Biden)
    • To format a source’s title in your essay or works-cited list in MLA 9, use title-case capitalization, by capitalizing the following:
      • the first word of the title
      • the last word of the title
      • other major words
    • For title case in MLA 9, do NOT capitalize the following words unless they begin a title or directly follow a colon:
      • Articles, such as a, an, and the
      • Conjunctions, such as for, and, not, but, or, or yet (FANBOYS)
      • Prepositions, such as against, between, in, of, or to
    • For additional details and examples of how to style a title in MLA 9, see the guide for formatting a book title.
  • APA 7 – Capitalization Rules
    • In general, when writing an essay in APA 7 format, use sentence case. Sentence case in APA means only capitalizing specific words and terms, including the following:
      • the first letter of the first word of a sentence
      • the first letter of the first word following a colon if what follows the colon forms a complete sentence
      • names and initials for people
      • names for days and months
      • names of racial and ethnic groups (Asian, Black, White, Native American, etc.)
      • proper nouns
      • adjectives formed with proper nouns (e.g., Freudian psychoanalysis)
      • the subject pronoun I
      • titles that come directly before a person’s name (President Lincoln, Dr. Smith, etc.)
      • trade names and brand names that begin with a capital letter
      • university departments, academic institutions, official academic course titles
    • In APA 7 format, do NOT capitalize the following parts of speech unless they begin a sentence or title or directly follow a colon when what follows the colon forms a complete sentence:
      • Articles, such as a, an, and the
      • Conjunctions, such as for, and, not, but, or, or yet (FANBOYS)
      • Prepositions, such as against, between, in, of, or to
    • In APA 7 format, do NOT capitalize the following terms unless they begin a sentence, appear in a title, or directly follow a colon when what follows the colon forms a complete sentence:
      • disease and disorder names
      • job titles or positions when the title follows a name or is used generically (e.g., “Abraham Lincoln was president”)
      • therapy and treatment names
      • theories, concepts, models, statistical procedures
    • When writing a source title in the body of your essay in APA style, use title case.
    • When writing a source title in the reference list in APA style, use sentence case.
    • For additional details and examples of how to style a title in APA 7, see the guide for formatting a book title.
  • Chicago/Turabian – Capitalization Rules
    • In general, when writing an essay in Chicago or Turabian format, use sentence case. Sentence case in Chicago/Turabian means only capitalizing specific words and terms, including the following:
      • the first letter of the first word of a sentence
      • the first letter of the first word following a colon if what follows the colon is
        • a proper noun
        • a question
        • a quotation
        • two or more complete sentences
      • job titles or positions directly before a name (Nurse Smith, Director Miller, etc.)
      • legislative and deliberative bodies’ full names (e.g., the United States Congress)
      • names and initials for people
      • names for days and months
      • names of racial and ethnic groups (Asian, Black, White, Native American, etc.)
      • proper nouns
      • adjectives formed with proper nouns (e.g., Freudian psychoanalysis)
      • the subject pronoun I
      • titles that come directly before a person’s name
      • trade names and brand names that begin with a capital letter
      • university departments, academic institutions, official academic course titles
    • In Chicago/Turabian format, do NOT capitalize the following parts of speech unless they begin a sentence or title:
      • Articles, such as a, an, and the
      • Conjunctions, such as for, and, not, but, or, or yet (FANBOYS)
      • Prepositions, such as against, between, in, of, or to
    • When writing a source title in the body of your essay or in the references/bibliography in Chicago/Turabian style, use title case.
    • For additional details and examples of how to style a title in Chicago/Turabian, see the guide for formatting a book title.

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