I was driving west on State Route 520 in Seattle yesterday, when I passed a sign that always drives me nuts. It says "University Of Washington."
I have nothing against the UW. In fact, I am looking forward to teaching a class in the MBA program there in January. What drives me nuts is the Of. It should not be capitalized.
There is a just a tiny bit of disagreement about which words should and shouldn’t be capitalized in titles and headings, but here are rules you can always count on:
- Always capitalize the first word of a title or heading–no matter what it is.
- Always capitalize the first word of a subtitle–no matter what it is.
- Always capitalize the last word of a title–no matter what it is.
The Gregg Reference Manual and The Associated Press Stylebook follow these additional rules, and so do I:
- Capitalize all words of four or more letters.
- Capitalize all other words except:
Articles (a, an, the)
Conjunctions of less than four letters (and, or, but, nor, yet, so)
Prepositions of less than four letters (in, to, of, at, by, for, off, on, up)
In slight contrast, The Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications renders four-letter prepositions (from, with, etc.) lowercase. And The Chicago Manual of Style and MLA Handbook render all prepositions lower case, even long words such as throughout and around. That approach looks odd to me.
No one capitalizes the word of in the middle of a title, so there is no one defending "University Of Washington."
Would you like to test yourself on the rules above? Capitalize these three titles:
- oh, the places you’ll go, by Dr. Seuss
- fix it fast, fix it right, by Gene and Katie Hamilton
- a funny thing happened on the way to the board room, by Michael Iapoce
Every word except the is capitalized in the Dr. Seuss title.
Every word in the Hamiltons’ book title is capitalized. Capitalize it as a pronoun. (All pronouns are capitalized.)
In Michael Iapoce’s title these words are not capitalized: on, the, to, the.
When I speed by the "University Of Washington" sign, shall I close my eyes rather than look upon the incorrect capital O? No, that too would be a capital offense!