Sections 8.167−68 in the Spotlight

When to Lowercase (or Drop) The from a Title

Readers are sometimes puzzled by Chicago’s recommendations of when to lowercase or drop an initial the from the title of a work in running text. Sections 8.167 and 8.168 of CMOS (16th edition) lay out the rules. For a bonus, we’ll also cover the use of the in titles of websites (8.186) in running text. Chicago guidelines for the use of the will not change in the forthcoming 17th edition.

Book Titles

In running text, keep the initial a, an, or the as it appears in the book title (uppercased and italic) unless it does not fit the surrounding syntax.

Fielding, in his introduction to The History of Tom Jones . . .
Fielding’s History of Tom Jones . . .
In The Old Curiosity Shop, Dickens . . .
The Old Curiosity Shop character, Quilp . . . (NB: The is roman because it goes with character.)

Periodicals (Journals, Newspapers, and Magazines)

In running text, an initial the in a periodical title, even if part of the official title on the masthead, is usually lowercased (unless it begins a sentence) and not italicized. Inclusion of the definite article will depend on the syntax of the surrounding sentence.

I read the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune.
I’m a New Yorker fan for the cartoons alone.
Do you subscribe to the Journal of Business?
The Journal of Business articles are included on the list. 
(NB: The is roman because it goes with articles.)

Websites and Web Pages

In running text, an initial the of a website or web page is lowercased except at the beginning of a sentence and not italicized. Inclusion of the article depends on sentence syntax.

It’s at the Internet Movie Database.
He showed me IMDb’s page for Live and Let Die.
I bookmarked Google, Google Maps, and the “Maps Help Center.”
The Internet Movie Database appears in that list.

There are always exceptions. For instance, the rules for an initial the in titles in citations are slightly different from those in running text. See the relevant sections of CMOS for details. And as always, editorial judgment and concerns for consistency may require adjustments.­­­

~ ~ ~

Note: Subscribers to The Chicago Manual of Style Online may click through to the linked sections of the Manual. (For a 30-day free trial of CMOS Online, click here.)

Is there a section of CMOS that leaves you scratching your head? Click here to let us know!

Please see our commenting policy.