Hyphenated Headlines and Capitalization
Tuesday, July 10, 2012 at 10:50AM
Chris Jackson in Writing, capitalization, grammar, headlines, hyphen, punctuation

Headlines and titles are one of those tricky grey areas where it is difficult to find a consistent set of rules, particularly when it comes to capitalization and hyphenation. Today at the magazine, we came across the question of whether to capitalize both elements of the word "Eco-friendly” in a headline.

My instinct was to capitalize it in the way it appears in the previous sentence, with "e" in eco up and the "f" in friendly down. Another editor pointed out that in a previous issue we had capitalized “Picture-Perfect” with the “p” in each word “up.”

Why capitalize both elements in one instance but only the first element in another. Had we made a mistake with "Picture-Perfect?"

Usually we follow the AP manual of style on such questions, but AP rules mostly apply to newspapers. Magazines can follow less ridged guidelines, as long as they are consistentThis website was somewhat helpful in breaking down the different approaches to the question of whether to capitalize just the first word, or both words, but it didn’t provide a definitive answer. In the end, I went to my colleague — who just happens to be the office guru on all things grammatical. She had a slightly different take. 

She pointed out the Chicago Manual of Style is fairly clear on this question. If both elements are stand-alone words, capitalize both. Such is the case with "Picture-Perfect." However, as Merriam-Webster points out, eco- only exists as a combining form and cannot stand alone. According to the Chicago Manual of Style, if both words can't stand alone then the second element is not capitalized in a headline or title. So, as luck would have it, both "Eco-friendly" and "Picture-Perfect" are correct in titles and headlines, according to Chicago

It is worth pointing out that magazines typically take a lot of leeway, more than newspapers, in creating their own house styles. That's fine, of course, but in such cases consistency is critical. In our case, we could argue that we were being consistent in applying Chicago style with the two examples of capitalization.


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