Writing Style – Capitalization of Hyphenated Words



BizWritingTip reader: “For headings or titles that contain a hyphenated word, do you capitalize the second word in the compound word? For example, would I write: ‘City of Thunder Bay 2010 By-election’ or ‘City of Thunder Bay 2010 By-Election’? Does the rule work the same way for compound adjectives also?”

BizWritingTip response: When writing a heading or a title, you should capitalize all the elements of the hyphenated words — except for short prepositions (e.g., on, out, to, up, by, at, and of) short conjunctions (or, nor, if, as, but, or and), and articles (the, a or an). Naturally, if an article starts the title, it is capitalized.

Examples (Hyphenated words in headings or titles)
City of Thunder Bay 2010 By-Election
Up-to-Date Report on Housing (To and on are short prepositions.)
The Mid-Winter Snow Shovelling Crisis (Title begins with an article.)
Report on the Mid-Winter Snow Shovelling Crisis (The short proposition and article are not the first word.)

If a hyphenated word appears at the beginning of a sentence, however, capitalize only the first part.

Example (Beginning a sentence with a hyphenated word)
Mid-winter is not a great time for golfers. (The second hyphenated word is not capitalized.)

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