Whether you are putting together blog posts, newsletters, website content, social media updates, or presentations, you are going to run into the tricky task of writing titles and headers. We all know that it can be difficult to come up with a catchy title, but then you inevitably face trying to figure out which words of the title should be capitalized and which ones should not. Although it would be ideal if I could just list some clear-cut rules, it turns out there are actually just a lot of "recommendations" and "guidelines" but not one agreed-upon set of rules that everyone follows.
However, there are some recommendations that are more consistently followed and others that are more about personal preference. Let's look at a few possible capitalization choices on a title so you can see which ones you react to as "more correct" and which ones are "less correct.”
how these “tiny houses” could shake up the housing industry
how these “Tiny Houses” could shake Up the Housing industry
How These "Tiny Houses" Could Shake Up The Housing Industry
How These "Tiny Houses" Could Shake up the Housing Industry
How these "tiny houses" could shake up the housing industry
HOW THESE "TINY HOUSES" COULD SHAKE UP THE HOUSING INDUSTRY
Looking across these variations, you might be immediately struck by some seeming "wrong" and others seeming "right." That may be because you've run across some of the "recommendations" before.
For instance, the first example avoids capitalization all together, and the second example uses it at random. Most people would view these as incorrect, and it might be because of the common recommendation to capitalize the first word and last word of a title. Others may view the third as problematic because they've heard another recommendation, which is to not capitalize articles, prepositions, or some conjunctions (in this case, "the" might strike some as odd to capitalize).
Others recommend that you only capitalize "principle words" like nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives. A similar recommendation is to capitalize words that are more than four letters long but not words that are less than four. These may cause you to view example three and five as incorrect but example four as more correct. However, contradicting that advice, another recommendation is to simply capitalize each word of the title, which we see in the third example.
Some would view example six as incorrect because it is entirely capitalized and may come across as yelling, while others may view this as a style choice to ensure the title text stands out from the body text on a document.
As you can see, it can get a little tricky to figure out how to capitalize titles. While there is not a "one size fits all" approach -- just scrolling through Yahoo.com's homepage, which collects headlines from dozens of sites, will show you how the approaches vary -- there are some things you can take away to help you decide what to capitalize.
First, make sure you think consciously about capitalization as you craft your titles or headers. It isn’t something that should be done at random.
Next, you could look at the list of common recommendations and pick those that stand out to you as most important and basically make them “rules” for your particular company’s written communication.
That leads to the next step, which is to be consistent. Any website, blog, or writing guide you find will tell you that being consistent will be the key thing when it comes to capitalization of titles. You don’t want to have a seemingly random, unorganized approach to titles and headers across your company’s website, report, social media, etc.
To help you review some of the key “recommendations” and identify which ones you want to implement as “rules” for your own titles and headers, you can check out this helpful guide from GrammarGirl’s Quick and Dirty Tips page: https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/capitalizing-titles