How to Use Title Case to Make Your Headlines Look Professional

Title case refers to a format used in English when writing titles, headlines, subheadings, etc. It is used both online and in print, and it is used across a wide range of media from academic papers to romance novels, from work resumes to magazine articles in print or virtual editions.



One of the key characteristics of title case is that, unlike in sentences, many words will be capitalized. In an English sentence, only the first word of a sentence is generally capitalized. Unless there are proper nouns in the sentence, all other words will begin with a lower case letter. Only the initial word of the sentence will begin with a capital letter. In title case, all the important words will start with a capital.

Important Words are Capitalized in Title Case

When composing a headline for your blog post or article, you will likely want to format it in title case. That means that you should capitalize the first word. After the first word, all important words in your title should also begin with a capital letter. So what words count as important? Well, most times it’s actually easier to list the kinds of words that aren’t important!

Words that generally don’t get capitalized in title case include:

  • Articles: a, an, the
  • Conjunctions: and, or, but, etc.
  • Prepositions: on, in, with, of, etc.

Only capitalize such words in title case if they are the initial word of the title or heading. For example, in “The Life and Times of the Rich and Famous,” the word “the” appears twice. It is written with a capital letter at the beginning of the title, but thereafter it is not capitalized. The conjunction “and” and the preposition “of” are similarly not written with capital letters, because they are not important words.

Using Title Case to Help your Content Get Noticed

Title case sets your headlines and subheadings off from the rest of the text, and helps to get them noticed. You will probably be formatting all titles, headings and subheadings with larger print or a boldface font, but the capital letters also draw the eye to a title and help to communicate its importance in the text. When native English speakers learn to read, they become used to seeing titles and headings written according to the conventions of title case – in other words, with important words capitalized and, in general, without punctuation marks.

When you publish a blog post or an article, you should use title case formatting for all titles, headings, and subheadings unless the house style asks for you to do otherwise. Capitalize all the important words, and write the title a little more as a label rather than as a sentence. You may need a colon or a question mark in your title, but in general titles do not need punctuation.

Again, the point is to set titles and subheadings aside from the sentences in your text and to draw the reader’s attention to them. Titles serve a different purpose than sentences. They are used to organize information and to break it up into chunks the reader can more easily digest.

 

Title Case | How to format your headlines so they stand out


Title case makes your blog titles and subheadings stand out
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Original content © 2015, 2016 Kyla Matton Osborne. First published at Seraphic Insights. Featured image by Unsplash/Pixabay/CC0.



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  • Comments

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        Title case isn’t a rule, per se. It’s a standard. Not all sites or print applications use title case. Some use sentence case. Also, each style guide has its own way to handle those words that are a bit ambiguous – longer adjectives like “that,” for example, or prepositions like “between” and “against” are capitalized differently, depending on the style you are following.

      2. Profile photo of Gil Camporazo
        Gil Camporazo

        I thought it a rule that everyone should follow. I have never thought that. I know every publishing unit has its own standard or style to follow or to apply. Does it have to do with the exposure of the post on the web?

      3. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        No, these standards for formatting are very old and predate the internet by quite a bit. The concept of “case” as applied to text originated with typesetting for print. The capital letters were kept in a different box or drawer (the “case”) from the minuscule (now lower case) letters.

        Title case is commonly used for such things as the name of a book or the chapter or subheading titles. But in some times and places, these have generally been rendered all in capitals or in what’s known as “small caps.” In newspapers and on some websites, it’s common to see sentence case used for headlines, rather than title case.

        It really depends on the publisher or site. But because most English speakers learned to read as children from storybooks that use the title case, we are “wired” to look for it. So it’s handy when writing for English-speakers, to capitalize all the important words. This may not be so for readers of other languages. For example, in French most titles are written in sentence case. And in German, even in a regular sentence, there are many more capital letters than in English. I think Germans are leaning toward simplifying the way they write sentences today, as English writers did centuries ago.

      4. Profile photo of Gil Camporazo
        Gil Camporazo

        I am more than informed. I am reading a mini-encyclopedic version of the case of “case”. I may now rest my case. No more question, your Honor. I am clarified. I digested it all. Thanks.

      5. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        I had no idea you were a punster, Gil! I hope you’ve saved a few extra remarks – in case you need them for later 😛

    1. Profile photo of Andria Perry
      Andria Perry

      Thank you for this information, I am guilty of breaking all the rules of writing. When I become famous I am sure the editors will fix what I have that is broken 😀

      I shared this article on twitter

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        You must be keeping some of the rules, Andria! Otherwise, nobody would understand a word you write!

        That’s the thing, the rules and standards are something we agree upon so we can understand one another. So we agree on what words to capitalize in a title because formatting titles this way helps our eyes and brains to process information more efficiently. It’s not because one way is better or more correct than another, but simply because over the years we’ve learned to expect information to be presented a certain way. It makes reading and learning easier.

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        I learned it in school, too. I’m always surprised at how many people didn’t learn to write paragraphs or format titles, or other basic things like that. I think we were very lucky to have teachers who taught these skills, as it seems it wasn’t necessarily a standard part of everyone’s curriculum.

    2. Profile photo of Gina145
      Gina145

      I’ve noticed with my blog that I often use title case, but not always. For some reason some of my titles just feel right using sentence case.

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        That’s interesting, Gina. I think I always pretty much kept to title case. I learned it very young (in grade 1, I think) and have to actively remind myself not to capitalize if a client or site requires sentence case.

    3. Profile photo of Rex Trulove
      Rex Trulove

      I normally do this with my titles and headings. I also use a different color, though usually a dark one, to bring attention to the headings. My idea has always been to make it as easy as possible for the readers.

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        Indeed, Rex! Anything we can do to set titles and subheadings off from the body text helps the reader to digest the information with more ease.

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        There are a lot of words that might or might not be capitalized in title case, depending on the style you’re following. I think the way I generally do it is closest to the APA style. There are aspects of MLA style that I would find awkward, like not capitalizing a long word like “between.”

    4. Profile photo of Linda Jenkinson
      Linda Jenkinson

      I do do that now on DVN but nice to have the entire “official “standard behind it and you make it so easy Kyla. People at DVN also call it “Up Style”. And the Examiner named and asked us to use, what you call ‘sentence case’ as AP Style which DVN calls “Down Style”. All goes into the pot of useful info I would say. Btw please see on Writer’s Accountability, my very polite request for you to write a clear 101 blog post for “how to work the BlogBourne site” as I am lost a bit on here. I know one tutorial from you in your clear manner will set me (and hopefully many others straight) Thanks Kyla. 😉

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        I haven’t seen that request, Lin, but will certainly look for it today! I hope you’ve included some specific questions so I can see where you’re having issues…

        Yes, I do remember that Examiner asked for sentence case. I had one or two other assignments that required it as well.

    5. Profile photo of Jo Pin
      Jo Pin

      That’s a good reminder for everyone. Capitalizing what needs to be capitalized and the proper punctuation mark should be used accordingly. Wish I could share some pointers later on what I learned from the writing workshop I have attended to. We are all ” a work in progress ” in every way.

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