Capitalization, Titles

Q. For rock fans, such as myself, it is sometimes important to know whether one is to capitalize the “the” preceding a rock group’s name. For instance, the group “the Who.” In the middle of a sentence, do I say “the Who” or “The Who,” given that the “the” is an integral part of the title and furthermore is the first word in the title?

A. When the name of a band requires the definite article, lowercase it in running text:

When I first saw the Who, they had short hair; when I last saw them, that was again true.

I can’t believe the Rolling Stones didn’t retire with all their money years ago.

The day I was introduced to the The was the day I learned that irony was finished.

It is true that “the” often gets capitalized on album covers, but our rule is to capitalize the first and last word in any title, which fits in with that practice (the The has usually employed a lowercase “the” nested above an uppercase “The” on its covers). Exceptions to the proper the rule are names that are captured within italics or quotation marks within running text. Hence,

Have you ever heard “The Real Me,” that song by the Who?

I have three copies of The Soft Parade, one of the Doors’ lesser-known albums.

but

Hey! Where did you put my Soft Parade LP?

The very last example illustrates the dropping of the article when it is grammatically convenient.