Should You Capitalize ‘Is’ in a Title?

Marcus Froland

Imagine you’re typing out the title for your masterpiece. You’ve got the words flowing like a river, but then you hit a snag. That pesky little word ‘is’ pops up. You pause, fingers hovering over the keyboard. To capitalize or not to capitalize? That tiny word suddenly feels like a giant wall between your title and perfection.

This may seem like a small detail in the grand scheme of writing. But as they say, the devil is in the details. Making sure every letter is in its proper place can be the difference between looking polished and professional or seeming sloppy and unprepared. And let’s face it, we all aim for that shiny polish. So, what’s the verdict on our friend ‘is’?

When you’re writing a title, it’s common to wonder about capitalizing words like ‘is’. The simple answer is yes. In titles, most style guides agree that you should capitalize not just ‘is’, but also all verbs, regardless of their length. This includes short linking verbs like ‘is’, ‘am’, and ‘are’. So, when crafting a title, remember to keep all your verbs in uppercase. This rule helps make your titles look consistent and professional. By following this guideline, you ensure that your writing is clear and correct.

Understanding the Basics of Title Case Capitalization

Title case, also known as headline style capitalization, is an approach to capitalizing the major words in titles of works, whether they be books, films, articles, or essays. Understanding the basic rules surrounding title case is essential for producing coherent and consistent content, particularly when adhering to various style guides such as the CMOS, MLA, and AP.

What Is Title Case?

Title case implies that the major words in a title are capitalized, including nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, while minor words like articles, coordinating conjunctions, and short prepositions typically remain lowercase. This distinction is made to highlight key aspects of the content, making it easier for readers to grasp the general subject matter and create uniformity in appearance.

Title Capitalization Across Different Style Guides

Although there are similarities in title case principles across style guides such as the CMOS, MLA, APA, and AP, each guide has its unique variations and rules. These pocket guides offer detailed instructions on capitalizing titles for various forms of written content.

For instance, while all guides advise capitalizing nouns, pronouns, verbs including “is,” adverbs, and adjectives, they differ with respect to prepositions, coordinating conjunctions, and subordinating conjunctions. CMOS and MLA usually mandate the lowercasing of all prepositions, whereas AMA and AP require the capitalization of prepositions up to three letters. Bluebook and Wikipedia guides take a similar approach, but instead, capitalize prepositions up to four letters.

Defining Major and Minor Parts of Speech in Titles

In title case capitalization, understanding the major and minor parts of speech is crucial. Major parts of speech include:

  • Nouns
  • Pronouns
  • Verbs
  • Adverbs
  • Adjectives
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Minor parts of speech consist of articles, specific conjunctions, and short prepositions. In title case, major parts of speech are capitalized, while minor parts are presented in lowercase.

The classification of a word in a title as major or minor can change, depending on its usage and context. For example, “on” could be a preposition, an adjective or an adverb, resulting in varying capitalization rules depending on its grammatical function.

The Role of ‘Is’ as a Verb in Titles

As mentioned earlier, capitalizing ‘is’ in titles is essential because it serves its grammatical role as a verb. Despite sometimes not sounding like it conveys a significant action, “is” maintains this role consistently across sentences, even when it accompanies another verb, such as “is turning.” To better understand the relevance of capitalizing “is,” let’s examine its role as a verb.

Is typically represents a state of being, capturing the essence of a relationship between various components within a sentence. As a critical grammatical element, the capitalization of “is” in a title is crucial to maintaining clarity and making emphasis on its connection with major words.

  • Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
  • Life Is Beautiful
  • It Is What It Is
  • All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter

As seen in these examples, even when “is” appears inconspicuous or seemingly has little impact on the action, it remains an essential verb that should be capitalized in titles. The presence of “is” in titles contributes significantly to the general action or state of the subject, reinforcing the rule of capitalizing verbs in title case, including the word “is” itself.

When constructing your own titles or editing others, it is vital to recognize the grammatical role of “is” by capitalizing it as a verb. By adhering to this rule, you contribute to the maintenance of proper formatting and coherence across your written works.

Title Case Exceptions and Creative Contexts

While style guides standardize the capitalization of “is” in titles, creative contexts such as book covers or movie posters may introduce exceptions to the rule. By exploring the impact of graphical design choices and when breaking the rules makes sense, this section discusses the importance of bending capitalization rules and creatively implementing title case.

Graphical Design Choices and Their Impact on Title Capitalization

In creative contexts, opting for a different graphical representation can de-emphasize “is” without breaking the title case rules. Manipulating font styles, sizes, and color can ensure continuity while allowing other words to stand out more prominently. For instance, in the movie poster for Life Is Beautiful or the book cover of Sue Grafton’s Y Is for Yesterday, the word “is” appears less significant compared to the rest of the title.

When Breaking the Rules Makes Sense

Strict adherence to title case rules is expected in a scholarly setting, yet more creative or informal works can benefit from bending the rules for artistic or visual impact. Novels, magazines, and online content may prioritize capturing attention and conveying a particular aesthetic or emphasis over grammatical correctness. In these cases, applying creative capitalization and typography in titles can set the work apart from others.

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Notable examples that veer from the standard rules include:

  1. E.E. Cummings’ poetry, known for its distinctive lowercase style and creative capitalization.
  2. Kendrick Lamar’s album DAMN., in which every song title is capitalized, emphasizing the intensity of the content.
  3. The movie Frances Ha, which intentionally avoids capitalizing the “H” in “Ha” to reflect the film’s quirky, minimalist nature.

Ultimately, while maintaining grammatical correctness is essential in more formal settings, the use of creative title case can be a powerful tool for artists and designers who wish to employ innovative graphical title design to connect with their audience on a deeper level.

Comparing ‘Is’ Capitalization in Popular Titles and Media

Popular media titles, from songs to movies, often follow the rule of capitalizing “is.” This consistency demonstrates the general adherence to title capitalization rules. However, there are also instances where “is” might be lowercased, which suggests that deviation from the standard rules might be considered natural in certain contexts. To better understand the application of title capitalization in real-world examples, let’s explore some famous titles in various media forms and how they handle the capitalization of ‘Is.’

  1. Life Is Beautiful (1997 film)
  2. Breaking Up Is Hard to Do (song by Neil Sedaka)
  3. Is Paris Burning? (1966 movie)
  4. Is Google Making Us Stupid? (article by Nicholas Carr)

While most media titles maintain the capitalization of “Is,” there are inconsistencies, particularly evident on various Wikipedia pages. For example, “Life Is Beautiful” might be lowercased on certain Wikipedia pages, showcasing the variation in adherence to title capitalization.

“Life is Beautiful” is an example of inconsistency in title capitalization.

Title Type Capitalization of ‘Is’
Life Is Beautiful 1997 film Capitalized
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do Song Capitalized
Is Paris Burning? 1966 movie Capitalized
Is Google Making Us Stupid? Article Capitalized

As observed, the majority of popular titles adhere to the standard title capitalization rules by capitalizing “Is.” These examples reveal the importance of consistent title capitalization in conveying a clear and professional image in various media formats. Nonetheless, there might be instances where lowercasing “is” might be more appropriate, based on the creative direction or the context of the work.

Using Online Tools to Determine Correct Title Capitalization

With various style guides and specific title capitalization rules to consider, you may find it challenging to accurately adjust your text’s capitalization. Fortunately, there are title capitalization tools available online designed to simplify this task and provide you with the correct title case.

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These online capitalization tools analyze the context of your words, handling grammatical functions and accounting for the preferences of different style guides, such as the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), Modern Language Association (MLA), and Associated Press (AP). Additionally, they are equipped to address special cases like acronyms and hyphenated compounds when deciding capitalization.

Capitalizing titles correctly and consistently can improve the readability and professional appearance of your written work, regardless of its medium.

Check out the following features and benefits offered by these online title capitalization tools:

  1. Multiple style guide support: Choose between different style guides, including CMOS, MLA, APA, and AP, to customize the capitalization rules for your specific needs.
  2. Title case or sentence case: Opt for title case or sentence case to suit your formatting preference or adhere to a specific capitalization requirement.
  3. Context-aware algorithms: These tools can correctly determine the capitalization of specific words based on their grammatical role and surrounding context, ensuring an accurate final result.
  4. Explanations and suggestions: Receive explanations for each word’s capitalization, helping you understand the rationale behind the title case choices and improve your comprehension of title capitalization rules.

With the online capitalization help available through these tools, you can confidently format your titles with the correct title case without spending excess time cross-referencing style guides or manually checking every word. Need assistance with your title capitalization? Look no further than these online tools designed to streamline the process and provide accurate, style guide-appropriate capitalization for your written work.

Final Thoughts on Consistency in Capitalizing Titles

When it comes to capitalizing titles, consistency is crucial for maintaining readability and clarity across your written works. Whether you’re following traditional rules or exploring creative exceptions, staying consistent within your document is key. As a rule of thumb, remember to capitalize all verbs in titles, including “is,” to highlight the importance of these grammatical elements.

Understanding the role of the word “is” as a verb and its significance in titles can help you avoid making errors in title capitalization. Although it may feel odd capitalizing such a short, common word, adhering to established capitalization guidelines ensures your work appears polished and professional. As you gain a firmer grasp on the various capitalization rules across different style guides, learning to tailor your approach to the context is essential for conveying the correct message.

Ultimately, the final verdict on capitalizing “is” in titles is simple: do it. By capitalizing “is” consistently according to the style guide of your choice, you’ll create a more professional and cohesive appearance in your work. Whether you’re a seasoned writer or someone just starting out, developing a solid understanding of capitalization rules is a valuable skill that will enhance the quality of your writing and make a strong impact on your readers.

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