Title Case

You may have seen something called ‘title case’. Depending on what generation you grew up in, title case is quite strictly to capitalise the first word and all important words in a title.


The Cat Sat on the Mat
(Capitalise the first word and everything except articles, prepositions and conjunctions*)

This is also called ‘maximal’ capitalisation. It is most common; however, there is another kind of capitalisation in titles that you might see as well:

The cat sat on the mat
(Only capitalise the first word and proper nouns**)

This is called ‘minimal’ capitalisation.

The Australian Commonwealth guide called the Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers (2002) is used by government-run and funded organisations and many other publishing houses throughout Australia. This publication recommends minimal capitalisation.

The kind of punctuation you use for your book title is really up to your preference. However, if you have plans on publishing via iBooks you may find that you are restricted to using only maximal capitalisation. For this reason, Australian eBook Publisher prefers to use maximal capitalisation, as you will end up with a more consistent title across vendors if you capitalise your title the same way across all the platforms your book is available through.

* Just a refresher for those of you who might not know:
Articles: a, the
Prepositions: words that relate nouns to other words in a sentence, such as: about, at, down, for, of with
Conjunctions: words that link words, phrases and clauses, such as: and, if, although, nor
(Fowler and Aaron 2012, p 255)
Tip: if in doubt, check your dictionary—dictionaries classify words by their parts of speech.

E.g. the following is the entry for ‘if’ from the Macquarie Dictionary (2017)

Conjunction1.in case that; granting or supposing that; on condition that.’

**If you are ever in doubt about when a word should be capitalised in a title as a proper noun, you can use a dictionary to clarify. The Australian recommended dictionary is the Macquarie Dictionary.

Capitalisation in subtitles and other titles
You may also have other titles throughout your book, like sub titles, chapter titles and chapter sub titles.

You may find that you use a mix of maximal and minimal capitalisation, but it is important to be consistent. Use the same system throughout your entire text.

No matter if you are using maximal or minimal capitalisation, do always use a capital for the first word of your book’s subtitle.


The Cat Sat on the Mat: An Investigation of Feline Slumber
(maximal capitalisation)

The cat sat on the mat: An investigation of feline slumber
(minimal capitalisation)

Hyphens in titles
There is a bit of contention within the grammatical world of what to do if your title has a hyphenated word in it.

The Little, Brown Handbook (Fowler and Aaron 2012, p 505) suggests that you should capitalise the prefix or first word, but that you should only capitalise the following word/s if they are nouns, adjectives or ‘as important as the first word’.

The same book notes that this style will vary depending on what style guide you might be using. In some cases, if your title has a hyphenated word, you only capitalise the first word, unless the following word/s are proper nouns, or your dictionary tells you otherwise.


The Life and Times of a Happy-go-lucky Guy
(maximal capitalisation)


The life and times of a happy-go-lucky guy
(minimal capitalisation)

Australian Government 2012, Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers (6th Ed). John Wiley and Sons Australia, Ltd.

Fowler, H.R. and Aaron, J.E. 2012, The Little, Brown Handbook (12th Ed). Pearson, New Jersey USA.

Macquarie Dictionary Publishers 2017, If. Accessed 14/08/17 from The Macquarie Dictionary Online: https://www.macquariedictionary.com.au

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