Headlines and Titles of Works

Q. If the words of a book title are lowercased, do you uppercase them in the bibliography? The CMOS standard for capitalizing the words of a book title in the bibliography are, by and large, the standard of most publishers. So, if a publication veers from that, do you retain the original way of capitalizing (or not) the title? Or do you change it?

A. We apply headline-style capitalization to any book title, whether it’s mentioned in the text or cited in a note or bibliography entry. For example, we’d refer to the Kristina McMorris novel Sold on a Monday (Sourcebooks Landmark, 2018) exactly like that—despite the all-lowercase title on the cover and title page, which this detail from the latter shows:

Title page detail for Sold on a Monday: A Novel

The same would go for titles styled in all caps on the cover or title page, which we’d render in upper- and lowercase letters (per CMOS 8.159).

But there is at least one exception. The novel them, by Joyce Carol Oates (Fawcett Crest, 1969), is usually so styled, but not because of the cover or title page. The publisher’s preference is made clear on the copyright page and elsewhere, including in this final paragraph of the “Author’s Note,” which hints at the significance of the lowercase t:

Since then we have all left Detroit—Maureen is now a housewife in Dearborn, Michigan; I am teaching in another university; and Jules Wendall, that strange young man, is probably still in California. One day he will probably be writing his own version of this novel, to which he will not give the rather disdainful and timorous title them.

Though it wouldn’t be wrong to apply an initial capital, we’d support an exception in that case, however odd it might look:

Oates, Joyce Carol. them. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Crest, 1969.