As writers, we make stylistic choices to convey clarity and tone. Titles are no exception. You’ve likely seen titles, subtitles, and even mobile push notifications formatted in one or two ways: title case and sentence case.
Depending on the context, the underlying reason may vary. Most of the time, it’s a matter of house style—some publications prefer one over another. For example, here at Leff, our default style guide is the Chicago Manual of Style, which prefers title case (though it calls it “headline style”). Calibrating your organization’s formatting choices is necessary if you’re sharing a lot of content. Readers will notice inconsistencies, even if they can’t always name them. Having a standard style allows an entire organization to present a united front without a ton of effort.
The medium and purpose of the copy you’re reading can change circumstances. This piece on visual design walks through examples from Apple, Google, and other tech brands; each company has a different justification for its decision. For example, many UX designers believe that sentence case is easier on the eyes, especially for long titles. It Can Be Exhausting to Read a Long Title This Way, Don’t You Think? However, having a mix of cases within a piece, such as with subheads, can help indicate a logical hierarchy.
Case styles can also affect the clickability of web copy. It used to be widely accepted in the SEO community that capitalizing every word of a title (even the articles, conjunctions, and prepositions) would help your content rank higher in search results, leading to more clicks. This is no longer true. The best part of writing copy for the web is that you can often test your users’ preferences and adjust your approach to the data. At a prior job that closely tracked clicks on content, tests showed that customers shopping online preferred to click on copy written in title case.
It’s likely that a single style is prevalent throughout your organization’s culture, even in content that’s not for public consumption. Ask someone in your marketing or communications department if you have a house style. Look at your coworkers’ presentations and emails: which style is more popular? If you’re flying without an in-house style and you’re feeling verbose, choosing sentence case throughout may be a gentler ask of your audience. At Leff, despite honoring the Chicago Manual of Style in most areas, we use sentence case. All of our meetings are titled in sentence case, and if you spend a bit of time reading our blog, you’ll find that our blog titles trend a bit on the long side, so we’ve committed to being consistent in the name of readability.
If you’ve committed to one style but you’re having trouble trusting yourself, there are tools that will convert your text into whichever style you prefer. Convert Case will change your text into the format you select and even convert all-caps text into regular sentences. Microsoft Word also has a function in its Font box that allows you to change the case of highlighted text (see below).
Whichever case you choose to use, follow one rule above all others: be consistent.