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How should I capitalize a word with an adverb separated by a hyphen in a title?


"Make-up" or "Make-Up" (noun) "Strap-on" or "Strap-On" (noun) "Stripped-down" or "Stripped-Down" (adj.) "Up-to-Date Account" or "Up-to-date Account" or "Up-To-Date Account"

I've heard that in a title you should always capitalize the last word, no matter if it is a proper noun or an adverb. I'm trying to work out if it applies to a hyphen word with an adverb on its end.

marked as duplicate by RegDwigнt Dec 17 '14 at 12:05

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  • On and down are not adverbs. – RegDwigнt Dec 17 '14 at 12:05

It is usual to capitalise only the first part of a compound or hyphenated word in a title (though both parts in a headline) but there are common exceptions, so be guided by the relevant Style Manual if there is one. Specific organisations will have their own house rules regarding capitalisation.

For example, The Chicago Manual of Style (section 7.128) advises that if the first element is a prefix, then the second element is not capitalised unless it is a proper noun or adjective, even in a title.


Re-establishment Strategies

Anti-intellectual Pursuits


All-American Legend

Anti-Australian Sentiment

From the English Language Institute at the University of Delaware: "You capitalize the first word in a hyphenated word within a title. Capitalize the second word only if it is a noun or an adjective that is as important as the first word."

That is, they advise you do capitalise the second word in some cases. In the examples you have given, I would write:

Stripped-down Strap-on Make-up (wow, sounds pretty wild, what are you writing about?!)


Up-to-Date Account.

The Australian (Government) Style Manual also says: "Use title case for all section headings, figure and table captions. Title case capitalises every main word, but not the ‘little’ words such as on, by, for, of, the, an, a, for, etc. Do not capitalise the second word in a hyphenated word."

Commonly, articles, prepositions, coordinating conjunctions, or musical modifiers will not be capitalised, as in:

E-flat Concerto

Out-of-Control Adolescents

Hit-and-Run Driving Statistics

I'd advise that you capitalise everything in a headline, but for a title, just go with what looks right unless you are writing for an organisation with a specific house style.

  • I wouldn't say it was usual, because to me that implies it's unusual to capitalize both words. As you say, it's one of several competing styles. Which one is used depends on the house style of the publication. – Peter Shor Apr 12 '14 at 14:48
  • I take your point, Peter, it is not _un_usual to capitalise both, especially in headlines. It is indeed dependent on the local house style. But most modern Style Manuals do seem to prefer capitalisation of the first word only. I wonder whether the internet is having an effect on this? Also the diminishment of the role of sub-editor...they were traditionally the ones who policed the house style, but they are few and far between now. Here in Australia, sub-editing is a dying profession. I might start watching for this; see whether a common usage is arising in the digital wild, so to speak. – Kit Tona Apr 12 '14 at 16:33

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