Acceptable Changes to Titles

As much as possible, one should record the official published title of a volume in a bibliographic reference. There are, however, a number of acceptable changes.

1. Title Case

Regardless of how a title appears on the cover or title page of a book (if there is a discrepancy between the two, the title page should be treated as authoritative), English-language titles and subtitles should be changed to title case: all major words and the first and last word of the title and subtitle should be capitalized (SBLHS 2 §; see CMS §14.95).

Title in Bibliography:

The Psalms of Solomon: Language, History, Theology


For more information on title case, see our post here.

2. Non-English Titles

Capitalize the first word of the title and subtitle and any words that would be capitalized in a normal sentence (SBLHS 2 §

Title in Bibliography:

El intercambio de bienes entre Egipto y Asia Anterior: Desde el reinado de Tuthmosis III hasta el de Akhenaton


3. Punctuation

Except when double punctuation would result (e.g., following a question mark; see our post here), a colon should separate the title and subtitle (SBLHS 2 § This rule applies to English and non-English titles.

Title in Bibliography:

Keeping the Feast: Metaphors of Sacrifice in 1 Corinthians and Philippians

Title in Bibliography:

Centro y periferia en el mundo antiguo: El Negev y sus interacciones con Egipto, Asiria, y el Levante en la Edad del Hierro (1200–586 a.C.)

Title in Bibliography:

Is Samuel among the Deuteronomists? Current Views on the Place of Samuel in a Deuteronomistic History


A semicolon should separate the subtitle and subsequent subtitles (see CMS §14.98).

Title in Bibliography:

The Echoes of Many Texts: Reflections on Jewish and Christian Traditions; Essays in Honor of Lou H. Silberman


Use semicolons between titles of separate works published in the same binding (SBLHS 2 §

Title in Bibliography:

The Categories; On Interpretation; Prior Analytics


Use a comma before a range of years at the end of a title unless the title page uses parenthesis (SBLHS 2 §

Title in Bibliography:

Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity: An Archaeological Study of Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, and Early Israel, 1300–1100 B.C.E.

Title in Bibliography:

To Caesar What Is Caesar’s: Tribute, Taxes and Imperial Administration in Early Roman Palestine (63 B.C.E–70 C.E.)

Pages from UdohCAESARfinal

 4. Hyphens, En dashes, Em dashes

Use hyphens to separate compound words.

Title in Bibliography:

The Politics of Pessimism in Ecclesiastes: A Social-Science Perspective


Use en dashes to separate dates or verse ranges.

Title in Bibliography:

Dismembering the Whole: Composition and Purpose of Judges 19–21


Retain any em dashes that are present in the official title (SBLHS 2 §

Title in Bibliography:

Doing Gender—Doing Religion: Fallstudien zur Intersektionalität im frühen Judentum, Christentum und Islam


If the official title does not contain an em dash, use a colon.

For more on the differences between hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes, see our post here.


When abbreviations such as BCE and CE are used in a book title, they should be set in full caps, not small caps, and italicized to agree with the rest of the title, regardless of how the terms originally appear (see SBLHS 2 § If periods are used in the original publication, record them in the bibliographic reference.

Title in Bibliography:

Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity: An Archaeological Study of Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, and Early Israel, 1300-1100 B.C.E.


6. Non-English terms

When non-English words are used in an English title, they should ordinarily be italicized to match the rest of the title (SBLHS 2 §

Title in Bibliography:

Logos and Sophia: The Rhetorical Situation of 1 Corinthians


7. Titles within titles

Titles within titles should be set off by quotation marks, even though they are titles of books, and should be capitalized in the same style as the title that includes them (SBLHS 2 §; see CMS §8.163, §8.171, §14.102).

Title in Bibliography:

The “Nocturnal Side of Science” in David Friedrich Strauss’s “Life of Jesus Critically Examined”


This includes titles of ancient works that one would normally italicize.

Title in Bibliography:

The “Panarion” of Epiphanius of Salamis: Book I (Sects 1–46)


8. Ampersands

Ampersands found in original titles should be changed to “and” (SBLHS 2 §

Title in Bibliography:

Christology. Vol. 1 of The Christ and the Spirit


9. Digits

Except in non-English titles, digits that would ordinarily be spelled out in running text should be spelled out in citations (SBLHS 2 §

Title in Bibliography:

From Qumran to Aleppo: A Discussion with Emanuel Tov about the Textual History of the Jewish Scriptures in Honor of His Sixty-Fifth Birthday


8 thoughts on “Acceptable Changes to Titles

  1. Is it safe to assume that all these same rules apply to journal article/chapter titles? All the examples here are books, and the beginning paragraph refers to the title of “a volume,” and also refers to the title or cover page. But the same rules apply to the article/chapter titles, correct? This is true in CMS at least (14.196).


  2. Many thanks for these clarifications!

    A follow-up question about titles within titles: how would you refer to the following book, where the title is the name of the ancient author + the title of his/her work?

    Would it be something like this?
    Hort, F. J. A., and Joseph B. Mayor, eds. Clement of Alexandria, “Miscellanies,” Book 7. London: Macmillan, 1902.


    • Thank you for your question. We would actually list Clement as the author and Hort and Mayor as translators:
      Clement of Alexandria. Miscellanies Book 7. Translated by F. J. A. Hort and Joseph B. Mayor. London: Macmillan, 1902.


  3. Hi, what about scripture references in titles which do not conform to SBL style? Should these be changed or preserved? For example, should I preserve the commas in the following article title:

    “The Blood “from Abel to Zechariah” (Matthew 23,35; Luke 11,50f.) and the Canon of the Old Testament”

    or change it to

    “The Blood “from Abel to Zechariah” (Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:50f.) and the Canon of the Old Testament”?


  4. I’m wondering about Roman numerals vs Arabic numerals in titles. Do we need to keep them as the original or convert them to Arabic?


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