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Title Case vs Sentence Case

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Sam Brown

Sam is an editor, ghostwriter and 7x Top Writer on Medium.com

• 10 min read

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Title Case and Sentence Case are two key formatting styles used in titles, headlines, subheadings, and text for books, articles, and blogs.

If you’re in a hurry, just rememeber these simple definitions:

  • Title Case means capitalizing important words and leaving minor words lower case.
  • In Sentence Case only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized.

If you want to convert your headline to title case, you can use our free online Title Case Converter.

If you’d like to learn a bit more about Title Case vs Sentence Case, in this article we’ll examine the similarities and differences, and explain which format you should use in each situation.

What is Title Case?

Title case is a specific style of capitalization used in writing to give prominence and uniformity to titles, headlines, and headings. In title case we capitalize important words and leave minor words lower case.

There are several different style guides which have subtly different rules as to which words should be capitalized and which should remain lower case. But, in general:

  • Capitalize the first word
  • Capitalize the last word
  • Capitalize verbs, nouns, pronouns, adverbs, and adjectives
  • Do not capitalize articles (a, an, the…)
  • Do not capitalize coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for…)
  • Do not capitalize short prepositions (at, by, to, on…)

Check out our article Which Words Should Be Capitalized in a Title? for a detailed breakdown of exactly which words should be capitalized in Title Case.

The primary goal of title case is to create a visually distinct and polished appearance for titles, making them stand out and catch the reader’s attention. It’s widely used in various contexts, including book titles, article headlines, chapter headings, and the titles of creative works such as songs and movies.

Title case is not only about capitalization; it’s also about conveying a sense of importance and hierarchy within the text. It ensures that titles are not only readable but visually engaging, making it clear to the reader that they are encountering a significant element within the content.


What Is Sentence Case?

Sentence case is another form of capitalization used in writing, particularly within paragraphs, sentences, and body text.

Unlike title case, which as we just saw, capitalizes the first letter of most major words, sentence case follows a simpler rule: only the first word and any proper nouns in the sentence are capitalized. Sentence Case is simply the way we describe text as it is formatted in a normal sentence.

The main purpose of sentence case is to promote readability and maintain a more conversational tone. It is often preferred for lengthy passages of text, articles, reports, and academic papers. This style ensures that text flows smoothly, without the visual interruption of numerous capital letters which can interrupt the reader’s flow.

Sentence case is particularly valued in academic writing, where it helps maintain a scholarly and approachable tone. It allows readers to focus on the content itself rather than being distracted by excessive capitalization.


Key Differences Between Title Case and Sentence Case

The primary distinction between title case and sentence case lies in their capitalization patterns.

  1. Extent of Capitalization: In title case, most major words are capitalized, creating a visually prominent appearance. Sentence case, on the other hand, capitalizes only the first word of a sentence and proper nouns, maintaining a more subdued look for better readability.
  2. Usage Context: Title case is frequently employed in titles, headlines, and headings, emphasizing their significance. Sentence case is commonly used within paragraphs and body text to facilitate a smooth reading experience.
  3. Formality vs. Readability: Title case imparts a formal and structured feel, suitable for formal documents and creative works. Sentence case prioritizes readability and is favored in academic, journalistic, and web content for its approachable style.
  4. Consistency: Title case adheres to a stricter pattern of capitalization. Sentence case allows for greater flexibility, maintaining a conversational flow in text.

Understanding these fundamental differences enables writers to choose the appropriate capitalization style based on the context and goals of their writing.


When to Use Title Case

There are some hard-and-fast rules for when to use title case and some situations where the writer has some freedom to choose whether to employ it or not.

Always Use Title Case in These Situations

Title Case should always be used for the following:

  1. Newspaper headlines: In journalism and online articles, using title case for headlines grabs readers’ attention and clearly demarcates the main topic.
  2. Titles of books: When naming books, novels, textbooks, or any literary work, title case is the preferred choice. For instance, “The Great Gatsby” or “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
  3. Works of art: Any creative work, including art exhibitions, sculptures, plays, and poems, benefits from title case to emphasize their uniqueness.
  4. Movie titles and TV shows: Titles of movies, documentaries, and television series consistently use title case, such as “Jurassic Park” or “Game of Thrones.”
  5. Games: As with Movies and TV shows, games use title case to make them stand out.
  6. Songs and Albums: Songs and compositions are given title case treatment, making them distinct within albums and playlists.

In these contexts, title case serves to highlight the significance of titles and headings, making them visually distinct and reader-friendly. It adds a touch of professionalism and polish to the presentation of information, ensuring that readers can quickly identify and engage with the most important elements of your content.

Title Case Is Optional (but Preferred) in These Situations

Title case is generally - although not always - used in the following situations:

  1. Titles of articles, blogs, and essays: If it’s your own blog or an article on Medium.com or Substack you are free to choose whichever formatting style you prefer for your headline. However, most writers choose Title Case. If you’re writing for a client or organization, they may have their own style guide for which formatting you should use for your title.
  2. Short Calls To Action (CTAs): Short, commanding, Calls To Action (CTAs) generally use title case. For example signup or purchase buttons on a website like Buy Now. Less assertive or longer CTAs generally use sentence case. For example Try now for free. Getting CTAs right is incredibly important so it is good practice to perform some A/B testing to see what works best for your specific situation.
  3. Product Names: Products are generally formatted using title case to give them a feeling of uniqueness and importance.

Don’t Use Title Case in These Situations

Title case should not be used for paragraphs or passages of continuous text. As You Can See It Makes It Harder to Read Long Passages as Each of the Capital Letters Causes You to Pause Briefly and Interrupts the Flow of Your Reading.


When to Use Sentence Case

Sentence case offers a more subdued and reader-friendly capitalization style that is particularly suitable for various types of content and contexts:

Always Use Sentence Case in These Situations

As with title case, there are some definitive rules and you should always use sentence case in the following situations:

  1. Body Text and Paragraphs: In long-form content such as essays, articles, reports, and academic papers, sentence case is the preferred choice. It maintains readability and ensures a natural flow of text, minimizing visual distractions.
  2. Online Content: Web articles, blog posts, and online content benefit from sentence case in the body text. It enhances the user experience and keeps readers engaged.
  3. Email Communication: In email correspondence, sentence case is standard for subjects and messages. It conveys a friendly and approachable tone while ensuring clarity.
  4. Social Media Posts: Social Media posts should use sentence case. The only exception is longer-form LinkedIn posts where the first line may occasionally be treated like a title or headline and thus may take title case. But in general, you should use sentence case for social media posts.
  5. Scientific and Academic Writing: Sentence case is frequently employed in scientific journals, research papers, and academic publications. It prioritizes clarity and precision in conveying complex information.
  6. Legal Documents: Legal documents, contracts, and agreements typically use sentence case to ensure accuracy and comprehensibility of legal terminology. It is especially important in this context as capitalized words often signify a specific defined meaning and excessive capitalization could lead to confusion or misinterpretation.
  7. Technical Documentation: User manuals, product guides, and technical documentation typically utilize sentence case to maintain a straightforward and user-friendly tone.
  8. Online Forms and Applications: User interfaces, forms, and applications often adopt sentence case for instructions and labels, ensuring user-friendliness.

Sentence case excels in scenarios where readability and clarity are paramount. It prioritizes the flow of information and minimizes the visual distraction of excessive capitalization, making it an excellent choice for a wide range of written materials, from scholarly research to everyday digital communication.

Sentence Case Is Optional in These Situations

In the following situations you are free to choose which formatting style to use:

  1. Subheadings and Subtitles: If you’re writing for a client or organization, they may have their own style guide for which formatting you should use for subheadings and subtitles. If you’re writing for your own blog or an article on a platform like Medium.com you are free to choose whichever formatting style you prefer. Most writers choose sentence case as it doesn’t interrupt the reader’s flow. The most important thing is whatever style you choose, to be consistent with it.
  2. Longer CTAs: As discussed above, longer Calls To Action generally use sentence case, although you may want to perform some A/B testing to validate which is most effective in your use case.

Clarity and Readability Considerations

Both title case and sentence case play a vital role in ensuring clarity and readability in written communication, but they excel in different contexts.

Title Case for Emphasis

Title case stands out as a powerful tool for emphasizing titles, headings, and significant phrases. It immediately draws the reader’s eye to the most important elements, making it ideal for catching attention and conveying the prominence of titles and headlines.

In marketing materials, advertisements, and creative works like novels, title case commands the reader’s focus, creating an impactful visual hierarchy. It imparts a sense of formality and structure.

Sentence Case for Smooth Flow

On the other hand, sentence case prioritizes smooth flow and effortless readability. It excels in long-form content, online articles, academic papers, and user manuals. By keeping most words in lowercase, it minimizes the interruption of visual capitalization, allowing readers to engage with the text more comfortably.

Sentence case feels conversational and approachable, promoting a natural reading rhythm. In web content and user interfaces, it enhances the user experience, making information easier to digest and understand.

Ultimately, the choice between title case and sentence case should align with your communication goals. Consider the context, audience, and purpose of your writing. Opt for title case when you need to grab attention and convey formality, and choose sentence case when readability and a conversational tone are paramount.

Each style serves as a valuable tool in the writer’s toolkit, enhancing the effectiveness of written communication in its unique way.


Style Guides and Preferences

Choosing between capitalization styles often involves considering both established style guides and individual preferences. Here’s how style guides and personal choices influence the use of title case and sentence case:

1. Style Guides

As we discussed in our article Title Case Rules, there are 8 major style guides governing the use of title case and sentence case. Additionally, many organizations have their own style guides.

Without going through every single style guide, here is a brief rundown of their impact on the use of sentence case and title case:

Associated Press (AP) Style: The AP Stylebook recommends sentence case for news headlines and articles, with the exception of proper nouns and the first word. It prioritizes simplicity and consistency in journalism.
Modern Language Association (MLA): MLA style typically uses title case for headings and subheadings in academic papers. It enhances the organization and visual structure of scholarly writing.
American Psychological Association (APA): APA style employs title case for headings, making it easier for readers to locate specific sections within research papers and manuscripts.
Chicago Manual of Style: The Chicago Manual offers flexibility, allowing both title case and sentence case for headings in various contexts. It emphasizes clarity and reader expectations.

2. Individual Preferences

Author’s Choice: Writers often make decisions based on their personal preferences and the context of their work. Some authors prefer sentence case for its readability, while others opt for title case to create a formal and polished appearance.
Audience Expectations: Understanding the expectations of your target audience is crucial. If your readers are accustomed to a particular capitalization style, deviating from it may affect their perception of your writing.
Contextual Considerations: The nature of the content and where it will be published also plays a role. Online articles may favor sentence case for its web-friendly readability, while print publications might lean toward title case for visual impact.

In the end, the choice between title case and sentence case often boils down to the specific style guide requirements, the context of the writing, and the preferences of the writer and audience.

Being aware of these factors allows writers to make informed decisions and produce content that aligns with established conventions or creatively adapts them to suit their goals.


Best Practices for Consistency

Consistency in capitalization style is crucial for maintaining professionalism and readability. To ensure a uniform appearance in your writing:

  1. Follow Style Guides: Adhere to recognized style guides (e.g., APA, MLA, or your organization’s style guide) to maintain consistency throughout your document or publication.
  2. Choose One Style: Avoid mixing title case and sentence case within the same document unless specified by your style guide or for a specific purpose.
  3. Be Mindful of Proper Nouns: Proper nouns should consistently use the appropriate capitalization style, whether title case or sentence case.
  4. Proofread: Carefully proofread your work to catch any inconsistencies in capitalization and correct them.
  5. Use Formatting Tools: Use a title case converter like TitleFormat to quickly and simply format your heading into title case.

Consistency enhances the professionalism and readability of your writing, ensuring that your message is clear and well-organized.


Summary

Just to recap for memory, title case means capitalizing important words and leaving minor words lower case. Sentence case means capitalizing only the first word and proper nouns.

Title case should be used where you need to grab attention whereas sentence case should be used where reader’s flow is more important.

Hopefully this article has cleared up any doubts you had about the differences between Title Case and Sentence Case.

If you’ve got a headline you’d like to convert to title case, try our free online Title Case Converter.

Tags: Title case basicsSentence case


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