I used to manage a citizen journalism website, so I often keep my eye on logistical issues regarding the local media. One thing I’ve noticed is their inconsistency in capitalizing words in a story headline.
Here are some recent examples of Lethbridge news sources that capitalize headlines:
- Living Donor Found for Taber Town Councillor in Need of Liver Transplant (CJOC)
- Little Bow MLA David Schneider Opens Satellite Office in Coaldale (Country 95)
Here are some recent examples of Lethbridge news sources that don’t capitalize headlines:
- Alberta jobseekers considering alternative career paths in less-traditional industries (Global Lethbridge)
- Sides pleased with final draft of gender policy (Lethbridge Herald)
- Rollover in Waterton National Park claims driver, injures five passengers (CTV Lethbridge)
As we venture into more established, national media, we see that non capitalizing headlines appears to be the norm:
- Four more regions close to receiving expanded EI benefits, Ottawa says (The Globe and Mail)
- Canadians need to start preparing for the possibility of a Trump White House (National Post)
- Payroll fiasco forces hundreds of public servants to ask for emergency cheques (CBC)
Outside Canada, there’s still inconsistency. For example, New York Times uses title case, but other major newspapers (LA Times, Washington Post, USA Today) don’t. BBC, The Guardian, and The Times also follow sentence case, as do The Sydney Morning Herald and The New Zealand Herald.
Why the differences?
Well, it comes down to headline capitalization being a style issue rather than a rule. While there is consensus on capitalization in titles of major works (books, journals, magazines, and so forth), there’s no consensus on headline capitalization.
Canadian Press (13th edition, p. 204):
Capitalize all proper names, trade names, government departments and agencies of government, names of associations, companies, clubs, religions, languages, nations, races, places, addresses. Otherwise lowercase is favoured where a reasonable option exists.
Chicago Manual of Style (8.157 Principles of headline-style capitalization):
Capitalize the first and last words in titles and subtitles, and capitalize all other major words (nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and some conjunctions).
The Canadian Style (11.16 Headings):
Unless a heading is centred or full capitalization is used, only the first word and proper nouns are normally capitalized.
Where do we go from here?
To answer the question posed in the title of this blog post, what it comes down to is personal preference. If your organization requires title case for capitalization, then you don’t have much of a choice; otherwise, it’s entirely up to you. Keep in mind, however, that it appears that a majority of established media outlets favour sentence case for their headlines, and if you choose title case, you’ll be in the minority.
Where do I stand?
I favour sentence case. I abhor unnecessary capitalization, and I find title case in headlines (and headings in academic papers for that matter) unnecessary. It’s why I use sentence case for my blog post titles.
Which do you prefer? Title case or sentence case? Let me know in the comments below.
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