Submitted by dave  •  November 20, 2004

Film titles

I’m wondering if there is a general rule for capitalizing prepositions in film titles.

For instance, one of my favourite horror films is THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, but The Devil Rides out (lower-case “o”) is stylistically awkward. Or Ferris Bueller’s Day off. Or the classic example would be those saucy British comedies of yesteryear, the Carry on series -- no one can figure out whether to call them Carry Ons or Carry ons, and as for the one called Carry On Behind, ought we to start writing it Carry on behind?

Someone help me out of this spiral of confusion!!!

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I'm really having a hard time with this question. Think Twice Before You Take This Class. This is a title of an essay. Which word should not be capialized and why? Is it a trick question?

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When capitalizing titles, the first and last words are always capitalized, even if it is a preposition. In general, prepositions are only capitalized if they are more than 5 letters long, as speedwell said.

Also, articles and conjunctions (and, but, yet, or, nor, for, a, an, the) are not capitalized (unless it is the first or last word, as I said).

So yes, it's Storm over Arnhem. And it's underlined, if you want to get technical.

Examples:

The Day Of
On the Day of the Storm

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Alright, then Storm Over Arnhem should be Storm over Arnhem instead? I have seen it printed as Storm Over Arnhem all the time. - A confused non-native English user.

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"Out" in "to ride out" is not a preposition. Nor is "off" in "day off." This is despite the fact that these words normally function as prepositions (many prepositions are also elements within phrasal verbs: "to drink up," "to sit up," "to do someone in," etc.).

Anyways, with particular regard to films, you're in luck. Imdb.com is not only meticulous about correct capitalization of titles, they also capitalize according to (what they perceive as) the most standard rules for the language that the film's title is in. So: "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (English), "Assalto ao Trem Pagador, O" (Portugeuse), "Octavo día de la creación, El" (Spanish), "Ich will doch nur, daß ihr mich liebt" (German).

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Dave, read this (though it is somewhat unlikely to make you less confused): http://www.tc-forum.org/topicmai/ml03capi.htm

Apparently, in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," you should capitalize "off" because it is not functioning as a preposition, but instead is part of the noun construction "day off."

In "Carry On Behind," we have both the unified construction "Carry On" (so "on" is not functioning as a preposition) and a long preposition of more than five letters (where only prepositions less than five letters long are lower case).

I'll go out on a limb here and say that I think the rules for title caps are, more than any other rules, a desperate effort to nail down a purely intuitive process.

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