Capitalize Your Headlines Properly, Please

Capitalize Your Headlines Properly, Please

In the English language, titles follow a certain convention of capitalization. Titles of books and magazine articles, news headlines, names of publications, etc., they all follow this basic rule: You capitalize every word in the title, except for unimportant words (e.g. and, or, is, the), with the first and last words always being capitalized. Patricia Vennes’ post on Blogging Tips, CaPiTaLiZaTiOn, describes the overall rules to crafting a grammatically-correct title.

All too often I’ve been seeing a trend of blogs naming their posts with basic sentence case, as Engadget does. It just doesn’t look right, and it breaks decades of journalistic convention. You capitalize your name, John Hannibal Quincy Rutherford Wallace Smith, don’t you? Have you ever seen a book with only the first word of the title capitalized? Have you ever seen a printed newspaper without compliant case? Probably not.

If you want to be taken seriously, don’t ignore conventions like this.

Blogging Tips had a recent post, The Capitalization Wars, with a similar point. Interestingly enough, Blogging Tips displays their headlines IN ALL CAPS. However, if you read their posts in an RSS reader, you’ll notice that they appear “properly” there. How is that? The post titles use Title Case, but they use the CSS text-transform property to display them in all-uppercase. If you view the source of the page, they look normal, but the browser renders the headlines in all-caps. It’s a stylistic choice that can be easily reversed at any time.

Please, type your headlines in Title Case. It may seem like a minor pet peeve, but you lose some credibility in the eyes of the “old media” (and the grammar geeks) if you don’t do it “right.”

  • JPM

    >Have you ever seen a printed newspaper without compliant case? Probably not.

    The newspaper I used to work for use this style. Drove me crazy, too. (And it was a major metro, at one time 700,000 circulation, though down to 300,000 when it closed.)

    • redwall_hp

      Maybe that's why they closed? ;)

  • @problogdesign

    Completely agree with you Matt. The headlines on my site are all styled to uppercase in the CSS, but I'm still careful to make sure that the capitalization is right just for the RSS readers and HTML title.

    Wouldn't even dream of having it wrong on the page itself!

    • redwall_hp

      Good. Sloppiness will not be tolerated! :)

  • Ryan Stoddart

    Just a note: with the exception of a select few newspapers, most DO NOT use this style any longer. Most prefer sentence case; it saves space in character counts.

    • Matt

      In my experience, 80% of the publications that use sentence case aren’t worth reading.

      “Most prefer sentence case; it saves space in character counts.”

      That doesn’t make any sense. What do character counts have to do with capitalization?

  • Folks

    My friends. Capitalized captions are used only in US, European style is on other hand like normal sentence..real old media, capitalized words in captions are young/modern US design style:)

  • Michael Cheung

    Don’t be so quick to dismiss newspapers that use sentence case in their headlines. The majority of top newspapers – from The Washington Post to The Los Angeles Times – use sentence case. The New York Times remains an exception.