Capitalization in titles and headings

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When capitalizing titles and section headings, you need to know the two standard styles: Title case and sentence case, which can also be combined.

That means you can either capitalize all the essential words, only the first word, or combine the two for a third option when writing an essay or a research paper.

Three common methods

Title case

You must capitalize every significant word if you are using title case. Here is a list of significant words that should be capitalized in this style:

Although the list above provides a list of significant words, it is still not an exhaustive list, and it is much easier to focus on what is not considered significant. So, unless they are the first word in a heading, do not capitalize:

You can use the table below as an example of a table of contents with chapter and section headings written in the title case.

chapter&section

Sentence case

A sentence case is much easier than using a title case. You only need to capitalize the first word of your title or section heading (e.g. Capitalization in titles and headings).

Sentence case resembles the way we communicate via emails, texts, or letters. As it is more natural, your writing might seem more approachable to your reader.

sentence case

The combination method

Ekran Resmi 2022 04 29 02.25.03
As a last option, you can combine the two styles and use different cases in different levels of headings. For example, you could use the title case option for your chapter headings and the sentence case option for the lower-level headings.

What is the right option for you?

Different academic writing styles (e.g. APA, MLA) have different capitalization rules that you should follow. It is easier to go with one style of capitalization throughout your paper and not dwell so much on capitalizing your headings.

Capitalizing proper nouns

Regardless of your capitalization style or type of academic paper, you must always capitalize the following:

Some theories, laws, models, and schools of thought are not accepted as proper nouns (e.g. Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs)

Importance of consistency

Consistency is a must to create effective headings. So, whichever option you choose, always pay attention to being consistent during your writing process.

Your table of contents can help you detect any unnoticed inconsistency. This way, you can observe your headings closer and see whether they create an anomaly.

Lastly, make sure that you don’t have other inconsistencies in the formatting, outline, English type, verb tenses, personal pronouns, and the layout of your document as a whole. Proofread your paper.

Frequently Asked Questions

There are three main capitalization rules and techniques in academic writing. These are; the sentence case, title case, and the combination method. You will need to choose the correct one yourself.

In general, you want to start with a capital letter when writing proper nouns. Also, as we talk about it on our guide, titles and headings sometime require capitalizations as a rule of thumb. The most important rule is being consistent with capitalizations.

When writing capital letters, you need to make sure you are consistent, you are using them with proper nouns, or you are writing your titles and headings in capital. These are the basic things that you need to follow when writing capital letters.

Thank you for reading. If you need further information, feel free to have a look at our essay samples or contact us at live chat.

Baris Yalcin
Baris Yalcin
Content Editor at Tamara Research. Movie and music addict. Bachelor's degree in Translation and Interpreting.

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