What Is Title Case? Explained

What is title case? It's simply a way of formatting headlines and subheads that sets them apart from the content below. 

When you are first submitting work to publications, all of the guidelines and rules can be overwhelming. I remember being completely confused by specifications like adhering to AP style versus Chicago Manual of Style, or unsure when to use sentence case and title case.

The good news is that once you understand exactly what title case means, you can rest secure that you are using it correctly and getting all the details right. What's most important is that you conform with house style wherever you are submitting. 

What Are the Rules of Title Case?

What is title case?

In title case, all of the major words begin with capital letters. Minor words like prepositions, articles, and coordinating conjunctions are typically lowercase. The first and last word of a title is capitalized.

While most major style guides agree on the basics above, each varies a bit in actual application. For instance, the Chicago Manual of Style and the MLA handbook never capitalize prepositions, conjunctions, and articles. Associated Press (AP) and American Psychological Association (APA) styles call for capitalizing any word with more than four letters, no matter what kind of word it is.

Types of words that should be capitalized in title case include:

  • Nouns
  • Verbs
  • Adverbs
  • Proper nouns
  • Pronouns

Words that shouldn't be in uppercase unless they start or end the title include:

  • Articles
  • Short prepositions (depending on house style)
  • “To” when used as part of an infinitive
  • Conjunctions

When Should Title Case Be Used?

Title case is used in titles or headlines in outlets where this is the house style. Subtitles may be sentence case or title case. Look for published examples from the outlet you are considering to see what the preference is there.

Most style guides acknowledge that headline style preferences are often arbitrary. Because of this, double-check which style guide an outlet uses and follow their lead.

In addition, a title case is usually used when you are referring to titles of books, poems, and academic articles. 

Examples of Title Case

What Is title case?
The titles of many books and traditional newspapers are writen in title case

Wikipedia's entry on title case is a good example to study because it's a place to see title case and sentence case juxtaposed against one another. Wikipedia's house style uses sentence case for headings; however, the titles of books and other publications within entries show up in title case.

The New York Times uses title case for headlines, as seen in this headline:

“Jon Stewart Has a New Talk Show, but He Plans to Do More Listening”

They use sentence case in the subtitle of the piece above, except for the show title, as so:

“The Problem With Jon Stewart” will examine social issues through the personal stories of those most affected.

Glossy magazine Bust also uses title case in both their print magazine and their website, as seen below:

“4 Pro Tips For Making Colorful Paper Collage Art”

The Final Word About What Is Title Case

Title case is a convention that keeps a publication's look and feel unified. The intricacies of which words start with lowercase letters and which start with uppercase can be confusing. Consult style guides or online title case converters to get it right for your publication of choice.

Need help with fixing capitalization issues in your work? A good grammar checker saves hours of time. It'll help you find and fix odd capitalization issues fast. You can also set rules about capitalizations and house style.

To find out more, read our Grammarly review 

FAQs About What Is Title Case

What are the benefits of using title case?

Using title case is helpful if you want to give more formality and authority to your work. It's also good for breaking up long blocks of text with headings and sub-headings that stand out from the body text.

What are the main differences between sentence case and title case?

Title case involves capitalization of major words. Sentence case is written like a sentence, with the first letter of the first word capitalized.

Which style guides call for title case?

APA Style and Chicago Style call for title case. MLA is agnostic but it recommends sentence case because of ease of use. The in-house style guide for CNN uses sentence case.

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