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Title Capitalization in the English Language

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Title Capitalization in the English Language

Titles of blog posts and web pages are very important. Having important keywords in the title is the most important ranking factor for search engine optimization. It is also  important to make the title appealing and interesting at the same time, because it is usually the first thing people notice when they see your post or web page in the search results of search engines, feed readers (blogs) and news aggregators. Anybody who tries to attract the Digg.com crowds knows that the title tag can make the difference between having a winner and going unnoticed into oblivion.

Interesting about titles in the English language is also the fact that they follow different capitalization rules for the words used in the title compared to the capitalization rules of regular content.

English is my second language and we do not have different rules for this in the German language. It was always a mystery to me, which words have to be capitalized and which words do not. A simplified but wrong rule is to capitalize every single word in the title. It does look awkward in most cases, independent of the fact that it is just wrong to do it that way.

I used my gut feelings most of the times, but decided to get to the base of it and figure out if there are any specific rules that state which word needs to be capitalized and which word does not. Most people probably know about these rules, but I am sure that I am not the only one who did not learn this in school or college. The people who had it in school can consider this information a “refresher”.

In titles of songs or albums and band names, blog posts or articles, the standard rule in the English language is to capitalize words that:

  1. Are the first or the last word in the title
  2. Are not conjunctions (“and”, “but”, “or”, “nor”), adpositions (“to”, “over”), articles (“an”, “a”, “the”), or the “to” in infinitives.

Conjunctions
Correlative conjunctions are pairs of conjunctions which work together to coordinate two items. English examples include for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so, both … and, either … or, neither … nor, and not (only) … but (… also).

Subordinating conjunctions, also called subordinators, are conjunctions that introduce a dependent clause; English examples include after, although, if, unless, and because. Another way for remembering is the mnemonic “BISAWAWE”: “because“, “if“, “so that“, “after“, “when“, “although“, “while“, and “even though“.  

Adposition
An  adposition is an element that combines syntactically with a phrase and indicates how that phrase should be interpreted in the surrounding context.  “Adposition” is a general term that includes the more specific labels preposition, postposition, and circumposition, which indicate the position of the adposition with respect to its complement phrase. Adpositions are among the most frequently occurring words in languages that have them. Examples: of, to, in, for, on, with, as, by, at, from  

Articles:
The words: the, a and an

Infinitives
The infinitive of a verb is its basic form with or without the particle to. Therefore, do and to do, be and to be, and so on are infinitives.

I found most of the information on Wikipedia and used some of its content directly or in altered form in this post. I also used a few other online resources for complimentary information.

There are always border line cases so I would not worry about it too much, but it helps with the decision if or if not a word in the title should be capitalized if your guts took time of right at the time when you are finalizing a great post for your blog or website.

Cheers!

Carsten Cumbrowski
Resources for internet marketers at Cumbrowski.com, for example keyword research tips and guides for SEO and SEM.

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Carsten Cumbrowski

Carsten Cumbrowski

Carsten Cumbrowski has years of experience in Affiliate Marketing and knows both sides of the business as the Affiliate and ... [Read full bio]

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