One of the biggest headaches for content writing is how to capitalise headings. There are so many different title capitalisation styles that you can be forgiven for not knowing which is more suitable for you. Even articles that write about this topic can sometimes forget an acceptable way to capitalise titles.
Here is our quick guide to the title capitalisation options your business could use in documents, website copy and blog posts.
First Tip: Formatting Not Editing
The first issue to confront is how you see title capitalisation. Many people assume that it is an editing issue, when in fact, it is more of a formatting issue. Therefore, don’t always look towards an editor. Look at the person uploading the document and publishing it. And ensure that you have clearly identified which capitalisation style you want to emulate on your documents.
The Title Capitalisation Options
AP Style – Associated Press style title capitalisation states that you capitalise the first letter of the first word and every first letter of the ‘principle words’. ‘Principle terms’ include all nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, subordinating conjunctions, and a few conjunctions. Also, you need to capitalise all the words with more than three, four or five letters in them (depending on your preference).
Chicago Style – This is similar to the AP style. However, Prepositions are only capitalised if used adjectivally or adverbially. For instance, ‘between’ would usually be capitalised in AP style but not in Chicago Style.
Social science and historical publications are typical users of this capitalisation style.
Sentence Style – Write the title as you would a sentence. So the first letter of the title is capitalised, but after that only the first letter of words you would normally capitalise (i.e. nouns). This style is the easiest for new writers to handle and more accessible for readers than the previous two methods.
The BBC currently uses this style on their website.
Every Word Style – This is when all words are capitalised in the title. Relatively straightforward and easy for readers to know what is a title.
The MTV website currently uses this style, as do we.
Title Capitalisation Notes
There are specific rules that you’ve got to consider as well with your title capitalisation style. Here is a quick guide for you:
- Be Consistent – If you capitalise one document in one style, ensure the next document is similarly capitalised.
- Use The Reference’s Style – If you quote another publication and write the title of that publication, use their title capitalisation style in the reference. Throughout the rest of the document, use your style.
- Don’t Over-Simplify – Don’t reduce your capitalisation style to a simple version. Two classic versions of this are capitalising every letter of every word or not using any capitals at all. Both are highly frowned upon and will reduce your brand image.
- Is It Right? – ‘Is’ is a hotly debated word. But, put simply, many style guides, including the latest Yahoo! guide states that ‘is’ is not a special word and, therefore, should not be capitalised in most cases (unless you capitalise the first letter of each word).
Title Capitalisation For Your Work
The most important thing to remember is that there is no one right way to implement capitalisation on titles. Your readers will appreciate particular capitalisation styles more than others, but technically, there is no exact answer. Like all writing elements, it is just an expression and approximation of the spoken word.
You have to find the style appreciated by the majority of your audience and consistently use that.
What title capitalisation for your publications do you use? Have you talked to your audience about what they prefer?
Let us know in the comments below.