Sentence case or Title Case?

Subject: Sentence case or Title Case?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, "Hickling, Lisa (TOR)" <lhickling -at- Express-Scripts -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2006 16:10:59 -0400

Lisa Hickling wondered: <<If you were your system's UI designer would you recommend *Sentence case* or *Title Case* for labels and columns? Even if you lean toward both which would you select if you had to make one choice for uniform application?>>

Note that "title case" most often means capping nouns, verbs, and other major words, but this is not a universal definition; when I design publications, titles only get a capital for the first letter in the heading and for any proper nouns. This is a very common type of title style, and saying "title case" doesn't distinguish between the two.

So the real question is whether to use capitalization or not. My preference is (as noted above) to follow standard English rules for capitalization: first word of a sentence (or title), and only proper nouns thereafter*. Because this follows standard English, it's easy to implement. It also appears more consistent than mixed capitalization, which routinely creates problems over how long a word has to be before you capitalize it even if it's a part of speech that wouldn't ordinarily be capped--and the results always look inconsistent to readers who aren't editors.

* In the context of a user interface, this can be extended to interface objects or menu names. By capping them, you're effectively treating them as proper nouns and making them stand out from the surrounding text because they're capped. For example: "Using the Open menu and the Open File command". See how the interface words stand out? If you were capping all main words, "menu" and "command" would also take caps, and suddenly you need another way to distinguish the UI names.

That being said, both title styles are commonly used, so you can pick whichever one suits your specific tastes. My objections to mixed capitalization probably aren't terribly significant in the real world. There are almost always much more serious problems than whether headings are capped. See our recent debate over gerunds, for example. <g>

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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Sentence case or Title Case: From: Hickling, Lisa (TOR)

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