EGGads! Capital Headline Mistakes | 3 | WebReference

EGGads! Capital Headline Mistakes | 3

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EGGads! Capital Headline Mistakes

Exemplary Examples

I went out there in the Web world to hunt down headlines. Here are a few I have found and my comments on each:

Airlines and Customers Pay for Old Systems

The capitalization in the headline above is correct!

Investors shun volatility

This Web site chooses to use sentence case in all of its titles. Its use is consistent throughout the Web site and it is acceptable.


Don't ask what this article is about, but this Web site capitalizes all headlines. This is fine because it makes each one stand out. On the other hand, see note below regarding all caps.

Submit & Win HoTMetaL Pro 6 and XMetaL 2.0!

Yes, this is from our very own front page. Who can resist this? I obviously could not since that is why I submitted this article. Do not fault WebReference for the weird capitalization of the product. That is SoftQuad's decision. The only thing I would change is spell out & in accordance with CMS rule 7.129, "Retain the spelling of the original title, but change "&" to "and"..." Although the focus here is on capitalization, be aware that you should spell out most things including names of centuries and numbers.

Object-Oriented Programming with JavaScript, Part I: Inheritance

This is my chance to kiss up to the webreference folks. This is perfect! Even the compound is correct because "oriented" is not an article, preposition, coordinating conjathingy, or a modifier. There's more on compounds coming shortly.

Rembrandt Is the Star at the Maastricht Fair

This would be challenging even for me because of all the little words in it. This Web site receives an 'A' for its correct capitalization of the headline.

Heading Out

Here are some final thoughts on headachy headlines and capitalizing them. Do we cap both words in hyphenated compounds? Sorry 'bout the fancy schmancy words. We're talking words like "hanky-panky" (and don't be doing any of that here), "pooh-pooh" (I say, "pooh-pooh" to those who like to point out all my errors in this article), and "mind-blowing" (Meryl has done it again! She has written another mind-blowing grammar article!).

Now, if these words were part of the article title, would both be cappied or just one? Even the CMS is still thinking on this one and plans to revamp section 7.128 in the next edition. You can read the full schpiel at . For those too tired to go look at it, CMS explains that some editors have adopted a simple rule and cap only the first word. Of course, it gets more complicated. There are exceptions in properly nouns and adjectives, and trademarks. For the moment, the current edition says the following is correct:

Meryl Evades a Run-In

Since the compound is the last "word" of the sentence, it is capitalized even though it is a preposition. If it were part of a sentence in this article, then "in" would not be capitalized. Capisce? You may not after reading the following headline:

A Run-in with FBI Agents

"In" is not capitalized since it is NOT the first word of the sentence, thus the preposition rule takes precedence.

CMS says, "Capitalizing hyphenated and open compounds in titles may be simplified by application of the following rule: First elements are always capitalized; subsequent elements are capitalized unless they are articles, prepositions, coordinating conjunctions, or such modifiers as flat, sharp, and natural following musical key symbols; second elements are not attached by hyphens to prefixes are not capitalized unless they are proper nouns or proper adjectives. If the compound (other than one with hyphenated prefix) comes at the end of the title, its final element, whatever part of speech it may be, is always capitalized."

Whew. That's long, yawn and complex, but necessary to prove my point.

You can take the easy way out and do everything in upper case or everything in lower case and blame creativity. Before you consider all caps, KEEP IN MIND THAT WHEN YOU DO IT THAT WAY, WE THINK YOU'RE YELLING AT US! Also, don't do this: (see last paragraph of BEST OF BOTH WORLDS).

Thanks for reading! Now head out of here - go forth and write left (I am a southpaw) and remember the capitalization rules I taught you!

John Grossman, ed., The Chicago Manual of Style. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1993.

EGGhead Meryl (, no relation to Meryl Streep, continues to tick people off with her imperfections in the WebReference ( grammar series, but she keeps trucking and ducking. When not doing this, she writes for The Dallas Morning News (, Internet Business Forum (, WebReview (, and others. In between, she designs Web pages, writes, blogs (, and works for a telecom company. Don't want to do the dirty work in writing smart grammar and other odds 'n ends? E-me for a consult!

[This article first appeared in the March 22, 2001 issue of the WebReference Update.]

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Revised: March 23, 2001
Created: March 23, 2001