Title case is a capitalization style that is commonly used for headlines and titles. When used correctly, it can make your content look more professional and polished. However, there are also some common mistakes that people make when using title case, which can detract from the overall impact of their content. In this article, we'll explore some of the most common title case mistakes and provide tips on how to avoid them.
Mistake #1: Capitalizing Every Word
Some people think that title case means capitalizing every single word in a title. That’s not true, however. Rather, title case distinguishes between
- major words (nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs) and
- minor words (prepositions, conjunctions, articles)
House of the Dragon
Requiem for a Dream
Portait of a Lady on Fire
Mistake #2: Lowercasing Is, Be, It, and Other Short Words
Another frequent mistake is not capitalizing two- or three-letter words like am, is, go, do, has, not, or too, or even four-letter words like this or that. I suspect this mistake is made because most words that should indeed be lowercase in titles are short (a, the, in, on, at, for, etc.). Apparently, some people conclude from that that all short words should be lowercase, but as previously mentioned, this only applies to prepositions, conjunctions, and articles, and not to verbs, pronouns, etc.
Orange Is the New Black
Let It Be
We Own This City
Mistake #3: Disregarding the Part of Speech
A very popular misconception is believing that there is a list of words (a, and, at, but, by, for, in, …) that are never capitalized in titles. But title case isn’t as simple as that. As already mentioned, it’s the part of speech that determines whether a word should be capitalized. For example, in the following title, on is a preposition and thus lowercased:
Keep on the Sunny Side
However, in the next title, on is an adverb, so it must be capitalized:
Keep On Running
Mistake #4: Using the Wrong Title Case Style
Another mistake is using the wrong title case style, or not even being aware that are different title case styles. For example, this title is correctly capitalized according to the AP rules for composition titles:
What’s Love Got To Do With It
But that capitalization is incorrect if you are supposed to use the APA rules. In this case, it should be
What’s Love Got to Do With It
And if you are required to follow the MLA rules, a third version would be correct:
What’s Love Got to Do with It
Mistake #5: Inconsistency
Inconsistent capitalization creates an unprofessional impression. Consistency is not only important within a title but also across titles. For example, if you have a blog, then the same capitalization style should be used for all its headings. Avoid mixing two title case styles, or using title case and sentence case for headings on the same level.
Mistake #6: Using Title Case When It’s Not Appropriate
The name already says it: Title case is intended for titles. It is not meant to be used for running text, e.g., whole paragraphs or tweets. Using title case in these circumstances is a grave mistake, and texts are often not taken seriously when they are capitalized in such a way.
How to Avoid Title Case Mistakes
Finally, here are some tips to ensure that your titles are properly capitalized:
- Decide whether to use sentence case or title case. This article might be useful: Sentence Case vs. Title Case: When to Use Which
- Pick a title case style and familiarize yourself with its rules. If you have decided to use title case, choose one of the various styles (see Which Title Case Style Should You Use) and read up on its rules.
- Use the Title Case Converter. Even if you know all the rules, using the Title Case Converter is advisable. Unlike a human, it doesn’t make any careless mistakes. It’s fast, reliable, and ensures consistency.
- Proofread your titles. Whether you have used the Title Case Converter or capitalized your titles yourself, you should always have another look at them before publication to catch capitalization errors (or spelling mistakes, for that matter).
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