You can use either title case or sentence case for your titles and headers. Many publications will already have a preference for which one to use in different situations, so be sure to check. Once you’ve established which case to use, what are the rules you need to follow? Below are some basic guidelines, but keep in mind that there may be more nuanced rules depending on which style guide you are using.
Title Case (example: Getting to Know the Revit Shortcuts to Speed Up Your Workflow)
With title case, you can generally determine whether to capitalize or lowercase a word according to the following rules:
- Capitalize the first word of the title, plus any words that are nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, or adverbs (and sometimes prepositions or conjunctions – see below!).
- Be careful here – even short words should be capitalized if they fall into these categories. Be and Is are verbs, for example, but I often see them lowercased in titles.
- Most style guides will also always capitalize the last word of a title, regardless of what kind of word it is.
- For hyphenated words, the word following the hyphen is usually capitalized unless it is a conjunction, preposition, or article – but style guides vary on this, so be sure to check yours.
- Lowercase words that are conjunctions, prepositions, or articles.
- If the preposition or conjunction is longer (over three, four, or five letters depending on the style guide), it may be capitalized. Some style guides distinguish between subordinating and coordinating conjunctions as well.
- Watch out for prepositions that aren’t used as prepositions! For example, if in is part of the verb (as in to log in to your computer), you will want to capitalize it in a header when using title case. Same with the example above where I’ve kept Up capitalized as part of Speed Up.
Different styles guides may refer to these two categories as major and minor words – but they don’t always agree which words belong to each category! If you have a style guide you are following, be sure to check it first.
Sentence Case (example: Getting to know the Revit shortcuts to speed up your workflow)
Just as it sounds, sentence case capitalizes the first word in the title/heading and treats the other words as you would in a normal sentence – generally lowercase unless it’s a proper noun (like Revit in the example above). This case is easy to follow, but it’s used in fewer circumstances. It’s generally harder to distinguish titles/headings from the rest of your copy when using sentence case, so consider helping them stand out in some other way (by using bold, a larger size, a different color, etc.).
Where to Use Each Style
Style guides and publications will have different rules for when to use each of these styles, so your best bet is to check what applies to you. If you are writing a personal blog or developing your own style guide, it’s your choice! You can also use a mix – main headers could use title case while subheads use sentence case, for example.
You’ve heard this from me before – at the end of the day, the most important thing is to determine your style and be consistent. I hope this blog has provided some guidance as you decide which style you want to go with!
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