English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

It's a common practice to capitalize headings/titles of articles. But is there a correct or conventional way to capitalize words in titles that are apocopated apheresed at the beginning?


Disable Feeds (Make 'em Inaccessible) On Your Site

Yes, I do understand that using Them instead of 'em would be more proper, but I really wanted to know about this anyway.

share|improve this question
possible duplicate of Should initial e's after h-dropping be capitalized? – MετάEd Mar 10 '13 at 6:37
@MEd: But that question does not address title case, which is not the same as ordinary capitalization... – Cerberus Mar 10 '13 at 8:47
I would capitalize your sample title as follows: Disable Feeds (Make 'em Inaccessible) on Your Site (lower-case o on on). As for the 'em (the crux of this question), I'd leave it lower-case, reason being that the missing t would've been capitalized, but, just because it's gone, we don't promote the e. An exception would be when the apheresed word is the first word of the title: 'Tis the Season, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, e.g. However, all this is only a hunch and I don't know of any authoritative source that would back me up (ergo, all you get is a comment from me). – J.R. Mar 10 '13 at 10:13
@61: No, it's not the length of the word that is significant, it's its part of speech. You can read about what "most" style guides say at this web page, and Grammar Girl writes about this as well. – J.R. Mar 10 '13 at 10:50
I would capitalize 'Em exactly when you would capitalize Them. You would capitalize "Them" in this title, so I would capitalize "'Em". However, I have no evidence for this, so it's only a comment. – Peter Shor Mar 10 '13 at 13:13
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The Chicago Manual of Style's convention on headline-style capitalization does not mention words beginning with apostrophes (8.157–159). It gives seven rules. The first rule is to capitalize the first and last word of titles and subtitles (e.g., 'Twas the Night Before Christmas), and the other six concern part of speech. This would seem to indicate whether to capitalize a word beginning with an apostrophe should depend on its placement within the title and part of speech, and would in your case give you "Make 'Em Inaccessible," which to me looks terribly awkward.

However, before laying out its seven rules, the Manual says

The conventions of headline style are governed mainly by emphasis and grammar.

This hints at what it later says explicitly; the rules are arbitrary.

In a previous edition (the 15th, 8.167), it says

If you are not sure what grammatical function a word is performing (or even if you are), try reading the title aloud: if you would stress the word, capitalize it; if not, lowercase it.

This would seem to indicate "Make 'em Inaccessible." Up to you whether you want to go with the more rigid current recommendations or the more subjective guideline the Manual prescribed ages ago (in 2003).

share|improve this answer

The accepted practice appears to be to carve out an exception to the normal rules of titling. Consider the play Give ’em Hell, Harry!, whose title has an ’em in it — in that literal capitalization.

share|improve this answer
Relevant link: Give 'em Hell, Harry! (Wikipedia) – its_me Mar 10 '13 at 13:34

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.