In a recent business writing class, a careful editor questioned me about capitalizing up in Writing Tune-Up for Peak Performance. In a hyphenated compound word, shouldn't a little word like up be lower case?
As usual, the answer is that it depends on whose style you follow.
I like the style promoted by The Gregg Reference Manual because it is simple and straightforward. Regarding hyphenated words, Gregg says, "In a heading or title, capitalize all the elements except articles, short prepositions, and short conjunctions." In Gregg, short means fewer than four letters.
Following the Gregg way, both parts of Tune-Up are capitalized because up is an adverb in that expression. The same is true of Follow-Up, Runner-Up, Shoo-In, Run-In, Trade-In, Set-To, Turn-On, and Take-Off. All those little ups, ins, tos, ons, and offs are adverbs, and Gregg capitalizes adverbs in titles.
The Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications makes capitalizing hyphenated words a bit more complex. According to Microsoft, you should capitalize the second word of a compound word in a title only if "it is a noun or proper adjective, it is an 'e-word,' or the words have equal weight." Microsoft gives these examples: E-Commerce, Cross-Reference (words of equal weight), Run-Time, Add-in, How-to, Take-off. (Gregg would render those last three as Add-In, How-To, and Take-Off.)
The Chicago Manual of Style takes a more complex approach to capitalizing hyphenated words. It agrees with Gregg that adverbs should be capitalized. Yet it recommends Run-in and Take-off because in and off are short and unstressed. It suggests Hand-me-downs for the same reason. Beyond that, Chicago does not capitalize the second part of a spelled-out hyphenated number (Twenty-first and Two-thirds). I like its approach in a final rule: "Break a rule when it doesn't work." Well done, Chicago.
If you had not already recognized the value of a company or team style sheet, these varying rules make a strong case for creating one. No more stressing over which hyphenated words should be capitalized in a title! Just stress once, decide, and record your decision.
I hope this review was helpful. Next question?