A Guide on Book Title Punctuation

For the trained eyes, there is nothing more annoying than looking at a book which is just one letter away from perfect. It is possible that you have made a capital mistake when not checking the rules of capitalization before publishing. It can be a tricky business, but nothing you cannot master by following a set of simple rules. In this article, we go over how to properly punctuate and capitalize titles (of your own books) on the cover and on the title page, with special regard to consistency.

Capitalization of your book title

This is probably common knowledge, but main titles in English are capitalized (in most style guides like the Chicago Manual of Style too). If you are not writing in the English language, follow the typesetting rules of your own language: anglicisms are generally frown upon. Unfortunately for us, the rules of capitalization, commonly known as Title Case couldn’t be more complicated.

CapitalizeDon’t capitalize
The first and the last word of the sentenceArticles (a, an, the)
The word after a colonCoordinating conjunctions (but, and, or, if, nor etc.)
All meaningful words (verbs, nouns etc)Prepositions under 5 letters (at, to, from, etc.)
Subordinating conjunctions (as, because etc.) 


the name of the names cover

For more advanced users, there are delicacies such as using captial letters for prepositions belonging to a phrasal verb. If part of the title is longer than a line, don’t capitalize the first word in the new line (unless you would capitalize it anyway.) It is also increasingly common, less so for books but more for journals, blogs and other publications to use sentence case for titles: with sentence case, only the first letter is capitalized.

We have two good news, however. The first one is that these rules are well known to any document editor software or app: even Google Docs can handle title case with a helpful add-on. You Just Have to Select the Text You Would Like to Capitalize, and Click “Title Case” in Your Editor.

sonias sorrow cover

The other good news is that you don’t actually have to follow any of these rules when designing your book cover. Your cover could be designed with ALL CAPS, ꜱᴍᴀʟʟ ᴄᴀᴘs, minuscule, or a combination of these, depending on the genre traditions and your personal preference.You have to, however, use proper capitalization at the metadata when you upload your book to stores. (But some stores do this for you automatically.)

The title page

The title page is the first page of your book, straight after the cover. It contains the title, subtitle, the author’s name, the publisher and the year of publishing. Here, you can either use your title with proper capitalization or use all caps, small caps, or bold. You can also use a smaller sized font for the subtitle. But do not put the title between quotation marks, italicize it, or place a full stop at the end.

philosophical retrospective cover

The title is usually placed at the middle of the page, with the subtitle separated by a colon, italicized, or being straight underneath. This is not your place to be very creative, these are general customs in publishing: the title page has to be clear and unequivocal. You are allowed to, however, dismiss proper capitalization for well-formed artistic reasons in certain cases.

book title punctuation example

The situation is not that clear once we are down to chapters and headings. There are two big schools of punctuation rules: some like to have chapter titles and headings in title case, and some people not. There is nothing wrong with either of group, you can follow your heart in this question, but don’t forget to be consistent throughout the document.

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