Capitalizing Song Titles Correctly: Your Guide to Music Writing

By Strategically AI. Reviewed by Rebecca Hey.
Updated December 1, 2023
4 minute read
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When it comes to writing about music, whether it's for a blog post, a music review, or even just a social media shout-out to your favorite track, one question often pops up: How should song titles be capitalized? It's a detail that can make a big difference in the professionalism and accuracy of your writing. In this article, we'll dive into the nuances of capitalizing song titles, ensuring that your music-related content hits the right note every time.

Understanding the Basics of Song Title Capitalization

So, you've got a song title to write down, but where do you start with capitalization? The general rule is quite straightforward: Capitalize the first letter of each major word in the title. But, as with many rules in the English language, there are exceptions and finer details to consider.

The Standard Rule: Capitalize Major Words

The primary guideline is to capitalize the first and last words of the title, regardless of their parts of speech. Additionally, capitalize all nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives. This rule aligns with the broader conventions of title capitalization in English and ensures consistency across different types of titles.

Examples in Action

  • "Losing My Religion" by R.E.M.
  • "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana
  • "Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers

Exceptions and Lowercase Words

However, not every word in a song title should be capitalized. Short conjunctions (like "and," "or," "nor"), articles ("the," "a," "an"), and short prepositions (such as "in," "on," "over") typically remain in lowercase unless they are the first or last words of the title.

Examples for Clarity

  • "A Day in the Life" by The Beatles (notice "in" is not capitalized)
  • "Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen (the word "to" remains lowercase)

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Even seasoned writers can trip up on the finer points of title capitalization. A common mistake is over-capitalizing small words or under-capitalizing important words. Remember, the length of the word isn't always the deciding factor; it's the part of speech and position in the title that matter.

Tips for Perfect Capitalization

  • Always capitalize the first and last word, no matter what they are.
  • Use a song title capitalization tool online if you're unsure.
  • When in doubt, refer to the official track listing from the artist or their record label.

Advanced Considerations: Style Guides and Artist Intent

While the above rules apply in most cases, there are exceptions. Some style guides, like the Chicago Manual of Style or APA, have specific rules for title capitalization. Additionally, artists sometimes deliberately use unconventional capitalization for stylistic reasons (think of e.e. cummings in poetry). In these cases, it's best to replicate the artist's styling.

Respecting Artistic Choices

  • "thank u, next" by Ariana Grande (stylized in lowercase)
  • "Blowin' in the Wind" by Bob Dylan (following standard rules)

Conclusion

Mastering the art of capitalizing song titles is a subtle but important skill for anyone writing about music. It shows attention to detail and respect for the material you're discussing. By following these guidelines, you'll ensure that your writing is not only correct but also professional and polished.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I handle subtitles in song titles?

Subtitles should follow the same capitalization rules as the main title. They are usually separated by a colon, and the first word following the colon should be capitalized.

Should I capitalize prepositions that are longer than four letters?

Yes, longer prepositions like "between," "among," or "beneath" are typically capitalized in song titles.

What if the song title is in another language?

For song titles in other languages, it's best to follow the capitalization rules of that language. When in doubt, look for official sources or translations.

How do I deal with hyphenated words in song titles?

In hyphenated words, capitalize both parts of the word if they are of equal importance (e.g., "Self-Reflection"). If the second part is a modifier or less significant, it may be in lowercase (e.g., "Re-edit").

Are there any online tools to help with song title capitalization?

Yes, there are several online title capitalization tools that can automatically format song titles correctly according to various style guides.

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Rebecca Hey
Founder of Strategically.co, we’ve created over 10 million words of impactful content, driving organic traffic growth for more than 300 businesses.
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