GrammarPhile Blog

Hyphenation in Titles

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Feb 20, 2013 5:30:00 AM

tightrope walkerToday we're writing about how to hyphenate titles.

The simple rule: Capitalize only the first element unless any subsequent element is a proper noun or adjective.

  • Death-defying Feats by Nineteenth-century Tightrope Walkers
  • An All-American Girl: How a Non-English-speaking Immigrant Made Good

The more traditional rules:

  1. Always capitalize the first element.
  2. Capitalize any subsequent elements unless they are articles, prepositions, coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, or, nor), or such modifiers as flat or sharp following musical key symbols.
  3. If the first element is merely a prefix or combining form that could not stand by itself as a word (anti, pre, etc.), do not capitalize the second element unless it is a proper noun or proper adjective.
  4. Do not capitalize the second element in a hyphenated spelled-out number (twenty-one, etc.).
  5. Break a rule when it doesn't work (see the last three examples below).


  • Under-the-Counter Transactions and Out-of-Fashion Initiatives
  • Sugar-and-Spice Stories for Girls and Boys
  • Record-Breaking Borrowings from Medium-Sized Libraries
  • The E-flat Concerto
  • Does E-mail Alter Speech Patterns?
  • Talulah's Twenty-first Birthday
  • Twenty-First-Century History (first, if lowercased, would look inconsistent here)
  • Hand-me-downs and Forget-me-nots (lowercase short and unstressed elements)
  • Run-ins and Take-offs (lowercase short and unstressed elements)

Source: Chicago Manual of Style


Topics: hyphenation

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