The capitalization of songs, as you might suspect, should be done similarly as the capitalization of titles. To punctuate, the song titles should be written with a double quote (i.e., "Title Here") around it. Any punctuation that is part of the title such as commas, exclamation points or question marks, should also go inside the quotation marks.
Capitalization Rules for Song Titles
Song titles work similarly to other titles when it comes to punctuation; although, song titles can have some special rules as well.
- The first word and last word in the song's title should be capitalized.
- All other nouns and active verbs should be capitalized.
- Conjunctions (e.g., and, but, or), short prepositions (e.g., in, out, by, for, from) and articles (e.g., a, an, the) are not capitalized unless they belong to the first rule of being the first or last word in the title.
- For prepositions, words that are four or fewer letters should not be capitalized. Words that are five or more letters should be capitalized, such as "across," "among" or "beyond."
- Some other short words should always be capitalized, such as also, be, if, than, that, thus and when.
- Phrasal verbs also need to be capitalized. Phrasal verbs combine verbs and prepositions or adverbs into an idiomatic expression whose meaning differs from that of the actual definitions of the individual words used.
Examples of Phrasal Verbs
In reference to the sixth rule above, here are a few examples of phrasal verbs that should always be capitalized in the titles of songs.
- Beat Up
- Call On
- Come Back
- Do Over
- Fill In
- Find Out
- Hang Up
- Leave Out
- Put Off
- Talk Over
- Try Out
- Use Up
Song Title Examples
The best way to wrap your head around these capitalization rules for song titles is to see them in practice. Here are several real world examples from over the ages.
- "Fly Me to the Moon" by Frank Sinatra
- "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler
- "This Is America" by Childish Gambino
- "Call Out My Name" by The Weeknd
- "Look What You Made Me Do" by Taylor Swift
- "Come as You Are" by Nirvana
- "Light It Up" by Major Lazer
- "All About That Bass" by Meghan Trainor
- "Live Like You Were Dying" by Tim McGraw
- "Letters from Home" by John Michael Montgomery
- "Take On Me" by a-ha
And the Beat Goes On
The capitalization of songs should be done properly when writing titles in essays or articles. Foreign language song titles should follow the capitalization rules of that language.
That being said, some song titles may eschew conventional capitalization for stylistic reasons. Recent examples include "thank u, next" by Ariana Grande and "HUMBLE." by Kendrick Lamar. When referencing these works, you can respect the unique capitalization in-text. Alternatively, you might write something like, "The song "Humble" (stylized as "HUMBLE.") by Kendrick Lamar was a huge hit in 2017.