What letters should you capitalise in titles and headings?
Capitalisation means writing the first letter of a word in capital letters (upper case) and the remainder in lower case.
Title case and sentence case
In title case, the first words, proper nouns (name of people and places) and ‘important’ words are capitalised. Words that are not usually capitalised are prepositions, conjunctions and articles.
The Art of Painting Portraits in Australia
In sentence case, only the first word and proper nouns are capitalised.
The art of painting portraits in Australia
Use title case for titles and sentence case for headings
Titles of legislation, books, plays, newspapers and some business documents are generally in title case, and headings are in sentence case. In Australia, there is one notable exception to this rule. The government style guide’s title is in sentence case (Style manual), presumably to emphasise the shift towards minimal capitalisation. It uses sentence case for headings throughout the manual, which I like, but I think the title should be Style Manual.
There is less universal consistency with titles of online articles and blogs. My preference is for sentence case, but I looked at The Sydney Morning Herald and The New York Times – one uses title case; the other sentence case. Which do you prefer?
The World Needs to Quit Coal. Why Is It So Hard?
How about a Robin Hood carbon tax to combat climate change?
The modern trend is to use sentence case for headings. I like sentence case for headings because:
- Writers tend to be inconsistent in their capitalisation when they use title case – a word will be capitalised in one heading, but not in another
- Knowing what words to capitalise is not straightforward
Capitalising prepositions in titles
Two major American style guides, The Chicago Manual of Style and AP Style don’t agree about capitalising prepositions (e.g. to, for, between). The Chicago Manual of Style recommends lower case for all prepositions regardless of length, whereas AP Style recommends capitalising all words of four letters or more. The Chicago Manual of Style makes an exception for prepositions used adverbially or adjectivally, for example, Talk Up Your Business.
Which do you prefer?
The Light Between Oceans
The Light between Oceans
Hyphens in titles
Style guides also don’t agree about whether to capitalise the second word of a hyphenated compound (‘Self-respect’ or ‘Self-Respect’).
No wonder capitals are tricky!
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