There are many different ways to capitalize the words in a title of a document or article. However, most of these can be sorted into one of two categories: title case and sentence case.
In this post, we’re looking at what each of these terms means in practice.
Title case is the most common way of capitalizing titles. The exact details can vary, but the general idea is to capitalize the first letter of the main words in a title. This typically includes:
- The first word in the title and subtitle (if applicable)
- All nouns, pronouns, and verbs
- All adjectives and adverbs
Unless they appear at the start of a title, however, shorter linking words (e.g., articles, conjunctions, and prepositions) should begin with a lowercase letter:
Tea and Crumpets: A Guide to Buying British Food and Drink
Here, we see that the capitalized words are mostly nouns (e.g., “Tea” and “Guide”), along with one verb (“Buying”), one adjective (“British”), and the first word of the subtitle. The conjunction “and” and the preposition “to,” on the other hand, are left uncapitalized.
The system above is a good rule of thumb for title case capitalization. However, some style guides vary on the details, such as whether to capitalize longer prepositions like “between.”
To ensure your title capitalization is always correct, then, you may need to check your style guide or use a title case convertor tool with the correct settings for the style guide you are using.
Sentence case is so called because it involves capitalizing titles as if they were sentences. The only words that should begin with a capital letter are:
- The first words of the title and subtitle
- Proper nouns or words derived from proper nouns
If we were to rewrite the title above using sentence case capitalization, then, we would write it as follows:
Tea and crumpets: A guide to buying British food and drink
Here, other than the first letters of the first words of the title and subtitle, the only word that begins with a capital letter is “British.” This is because “Britain” is a proper noun.
Title Case or Sentence Case?
If you are using a style guide from a specific organization (e.g., your college or publisher), it should specify whether to use title case or sentence case. It should also set out particular conventions for which words to capitalize (see above regarding variations between style guides).
If you are not using a style guide, the choice is entirely yours! Simply pick the title style that suits your document best, then make sure to apply it consistently. And if you need help checking the title capitalization in your document, get in touch with Proofed today.