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The title of my work may well be "Quietly Delivered on Time". Is "on" here just treated as any other preposition, despite it being part and parcel of the prepositional phrase? The only convention I'm presently following it that prepositions of five letters or less are lowercase in titles.

Aside, my thoughts are reflecting the somewhat similar association between the particle in a phrasal verb being capitalized in titles despite whether it's a preposition of five letters or less.

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    You are obviously familiar with the conventions that govern capitalisation in titles - it is not entirely clear why you think the conventions would not apply here. What you say in the second paragraph needs elaboration: what is the 'somewhat similar association . . .'?
    – jsw29
    Feb 21 at 20:48
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    A preposition of five letters or less? Feb 21 at 21:11
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    How is "on time/in time" capitalized in other titles?
    – DjinTonic
    Feb 21 at 22:03
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    Song titles often ignore that style guide and capitalize every word. Random example. Feb 21 at 23:40

2 Answers 2

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You may think that the fact that 'on time' is a fixed phrase (an idiom, as the preposition usage is really unpredictable) might dictate that 'on' needs the same treatment as 'time'.

However, 'on' is treated as if it were a preposition outside a fixed phrase in titles containing such idioms:

And even in titles with the opaque idiom 'on fire':

When the 'on' is more closely cohesive with the simplex verb, the situation may change. There are more examples of 'Carry On Screaming', for instance, than of 'Carry on Screaming' on the internet (first 30 hits in a Google search).

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  • You're seemingly always here to generously provide the answer I'm looking for. Thank you
    – parergon
    Feb 22 at 2:13
  • The extension of the convention you illustrate, to prepositions in fixed phrases, gives me a double-take. Personally, I'd happily break it unless bound to be 'correct' by a style-guide, or the like. Feb 22 at 9:51
  • ... Some titles are sacrosanct, and lower-casing when the original isn't could lead to problems. Legal cases were brought against people lower-casing (genericising in this case) 'Biro'. Feb 22 at 13:28
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In titles, the general convention is to capitalize the first and last words, as well as any major words in between, such as nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives. Minor words, such as articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or), and prepositions (on, in, at, etc.), are typically not capitalized unless they are the first or last word of the title.

In your title, "on" would be treated like any other preposition and would not be capitalized unless it was the first or last word of the title. So "Quietly Delivered on Time" follows this convention correctly.

Regarding your observation about phrasal verbs, it's true that the particle in a phrasal verb is typically capitalized in titles, regardless of its length or function as a preposition. This is because it's considered part of the verb and contributes to the meaning of the phrase as a whole.

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