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Title and sentence case

Capital Letter A - Calligraphic Vintage Swirly StyleBy Mary Morel

Title case

With title case, every ‘important’ word has an initial capital.

The Cat sat on the Mat

Unfortunately, experts disagree about capitalising prepositions (e.g. to, for, between).

The Chicago Manual of Style recommends lower case for all prepositions regardless of length, whereas AP Style recommends capitalising all words of four letters or more. (The Chicago Manual of Style makes an exception for prepositions used adverbially or adjectivally, for example, Talk Up Your Business).

Which do you prefer?

The Light Between Oceans
The Light between Oceans

Style guides also don’t agree about whether to capitalise the second word of a hyphenated compound (‘Self-respect’ or ‘Self-Respect’).

Sentence case

With sentence case, only the first word and proper nouns have initial capitals.

The cat sat on the mat.

When to use title or sentence case

Use title case for the titles of books, reports or Acts.

Seven Habits of Effective People

Titles of books take italics. Acts when mentioned for the first time are also in italics with the date. Subsequent mentions can omit the date and are in plain text.

These days, headings and subheadings within documents are usually in sentence case. This is preferable because:

  • Sentence case looks cleaner
  • You don’t have to worry about which words are ‘important’
  • You are more likely to be consistent

When referring to the titles of articles in text, use plain text, sentence case and single quotation marks.

‘A novel idea: curl up in bed with a virtual book’, Sunday Life

Learn more

View the full list of Online Writing Training courses.

Footnotes for referencing

By Mary Morel Reader’s question: When using footnotes, where should the number link be located – before or after the punctuation mark (e.g. comma, semicolon)? Answer: I think punctuation with footnotes is a style issue, but the Australian government Style Manual (2002) says: ‘Superscript placement: Place superscript note identifiers: at the end of a sentence or clause rather than immediatelyContinue Reading

Legislation dates and italics

By Mary Morel Reader’s question: Does the date in legislation need to be in italics? Online grammar answer: Yes, if you are giving the full reference. According to the Australian Style manual: For authors, editors and printers: ‘Most Acts and Ordinances have a short formal title that can be used for citation purposes. First referencesContinue Reading


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