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This page outlines the capitalization rules for the English language. It forms part of the MusicBrainz capitalization standard.

In English

All words in a title should have their first letter capitalized and following letters lower case except as noted below:

  • (1) Always capitalize the first and last word of a title. This rule should be followed even if the words would normally be lowercase according to the other rules. If a title is broken up by major punctuation (colon according to the Subtitle Style, question mark, exclamation mark, em-dash, parentheses, or quotes), capitalize each distinct piece of the title as if it were a distinct title. Therefore, for example, always capitalize the first and last words of each section.
  • (2) Between the first and last word of a title Capitalize all words except:
    • (a) Articles: a, an, the
    • (b) Coordinate conjunctions: and, but, or, nor
    • (c) Short prepositions (three letters or less): as, at, by, for, in, of, on, to, but, cum, mid, off, per, qua, re, up, via -- except when used as adverbs or as an inseparable part of a verb
    • (d) When used to form an infinitive: to
  • (3) In compounds formed by hyphens, capitalize each part exactly as if they were a separate word.
  • (4) Capitalize contractions and slang consistent with the rules above to the extent that such clearly apply. For example, do not capitalize o' for "of", 'n' or n' for "and".

However, for releases by Japanese Artists that contain track names in English see the CapitalizationStandard/JapaneseReleasesClarification.


I've tried to come up with a simplified rule set that does not generally require in-depth understanding of English grammar, but produces reasonably correct results in almost all cases. The 3/4 letter preposition size limit is used by (I think) most U.S. publishers.

The trickiest part is (2c). Cutting the preposition size down limits the number of exceptional cases. The 3/4 letter split is a rough guideline. I have omitted prepositions like "up" and "out" because they are so infrequently used as prepositions that it's much simpler (and not terribly wrong) to always capitalize them; on the other hand, such 4-letter words as "from", "into", "onto", and "with" are common and almost always used as prepositions, so there is a rather good case for including them. I personally prefer to lowercase these four, but feel it would be easier (and not terribly wrong) to always uppercase them.)

To help determine if a short preposition (2c) is being used as an adverb, check if it's modifying a noun or not. For example, "Dog in Eternity": "in" creates the phrase "in Eternity", "Eternity" is a noun, so "in" is a preposition- vs "Logged In Eternally": "in" is part of the phrase "Logged In", "Logged" is not a noun, so "in" is an adverb.

  • Actually in that example, "in" is part of the verb phrase "logged in", not an adverb. "Logged Eternally" would mean something entirely different. Otherwise you're right, though.
  • Actually in that example, "in" is part of the verb phrase "logged in", and an adverb.

"A phrasal verb is a combination of a verb and a preposition, a verb and an adverb, or a verb with both an adverb and a preposition."

I've also omitted "so" from the list: while it is sometimes used as a conjunction, it is overwhelmingly used as an adverb, so the same rationale applies as with "up" and "out".

I am hard pressed to explain "as" and "by" except by grammar rules: both are used as conjunctions (lc), prepositions (lc), and adverbs (ulc); although lc uses predominate, they are not overwhelming.

Not capitalizing "to" in infinitives, which is common but not universal practice, puts it overwhelmingly in the lc camp.

The bottom line here is that we have a list of 15 words (I may have missed a couple more, what are they?) that are not capitalized in most or all cases. We could probably illustrate that list in a second file, as well as build up a deeper list of exceptions and special cases. If we have more examples, we may be able to better formulate the rules.

Explanations and Exceptions

The following addenda are still part of this guideline.

Examples for Exceptions in (2)(c)

What about parts of titles that are put in parentheses but continue the main title?

Those are capitalized as if the parentheses do not exist. Mostly.


Counter examples: