Most words in a title are capitalized in English but this is not true of all languages; others only capitalize the first word and proper nouns. When you want to use a foreign title in an English text, say Lorem ipsum, which is the correct capitalization?

Option 1: Use English rules.

Lorem Ipsum is a pretty interesting book.

Option 2: Use rules of the original language.

Lorem ipsum is a pretty interesting book.

  • 2
    I found Lorem Ipsum unreadable. – Erik Kowal Sep 23 '14 at 3:09
  • And then you found out you have to deal with Japanese texts – Raestloz Sep 23 '14 at 4:57
  • @Raestloz What's different about Japanese texts? – Paul Sep 23 '14 at 9:21
  • 1
    Unlike Latin-alphabet languages, Japanese usually don't use whitespaces (which is the ultimate differentiator when you're dealing with something like expertsexchange.com). Sometimes they do, but most often they just don't bother, and that could lead to misunderstandings such as that unlucky site name. Thus, when dealing with Japanese texts not only do you have to wonder whether to capitalize or not, you also have to wonder where to separate the texts (to put the capitalization correctly). Those who understand Japanese won't have problems, us mortals on the other hand... – Raestloz Sep 23 '14 at 9:39
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    @RegDwigнt I'm not sure what your opinion is: always use English rules of capitalizations even for titles written in foreign languages, or never do so and just quote the title? My original question was not about translated titles of foreign works, it was about titles in foreign languages. – Paul Sep 25 '14 at 4:40

Style guides may differ on this point—because it is strictly a matter of stylistic preference, not logical superiority—but most of the ones I checked don't address the question at all. The exception is R. M. Ritter, The Oxford Style Manual (2003), which discusses the issue in at least two places. First, in the context of main-text occurrences (at 4.1.8 "Titles and subtitles of works"):

Foreign-language titles and subtitles follow the rules common to that language. ... Except in general for French and German titles, this consists for the most part of minimal capitalization: capitalizing only the first word in the title and subtitle, and any proper names, Transliterated or romanized titles follow this practice as well.

Second, in the context of translations of titles to be cited in a bibliography (at 13.11.1.11 "Bibliographies," under the subhead "Styles of translation"):

Titles of works cited must follow English rules: italics for published books and titles of journals, roman quoted [that is, regular nonitalic text placed within quotation marks] for articles in journals and unpublished dissertations. ... Capitalization, however, follows the rules for the language of the title.

As applied to your situation, Oxford seems to recommend translating the title Lorem ipsum into its English equivalent—presumably something like Greeking text—but retaining the original's style of lowercasing the second word in the title. Thus:

Greeking text is a pretty interesting book.

If that doesn't seem to indicate with adequate clarity the fact that Greeking text is a book title, you can make that fact somewhat clearer by including the original-language version of the title in brackets (though Oxford does not endorse this practice):

Greeking text [Lorem ipsum] is a pretty interesting book.

This is a matter about which intelligent and educated individuals may disagree. You need to consult whichever stylebook specifies the conventions that your writing is required to conform to.

As a general rule, I followed US rules for the newspapers I owned, but US rules require the capitalization of names, and most US publications would allow "e e cummings" without capitalizing it. Wikipedia and Google, however, write it as "E. E. Cummings".

protected by user140086 Mar 12 '16 at 4:43

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