Capitalization blundering is one of those features of text or digital presentations that’s only slightly detrimental to one’s ethos, especially if the audience is unaware of capitalization standards. When we present ourselves professionally, however, even small errors can subconsciously determine a reader’s perception of one’s credibility. Without realizing it, readers might treat a writer or blogger less seriously if they consistently break capitalization rules. I saw these errors regularly while working in the digital studio and also encountered them in the theses for Master’s degrees I’ve edited. Here’s a brief break down on capitalization for titles vs. lists.
With titles, subtitles, and subheaders, capitalize every significant word. Notice that I do this with the titles to my posts and the subheaders in the posts; if I could/did have a subtitle under the title, I’d use the same standard. This rule applies most often to titles of individual slides in a digital presentation (like Powerpoint), titles of essays/online posts/articles, and the table of contents for a long work (like a thesis or a book). We capitalize the words in these titles just like we do with name and place titles, like Lord Alfred Tennyson or New York City. You don’t need to capitalize “of” or “the”, but you should capitalize “is” or “are” because, while variations of “to be” are short and innocuous, they’re still verbs. Occasionally, you may run into a confusing situation; the other day, I wasn’t sure what to do with The Sound And the Fury…The Sound And The Fury…The Sound and The Fury…However, I’m pretty sure the correct version is still The Sound and the Fury.
With lists, only capitalize the first word and lowercase the rest. This rule generally applies to bullet points or numbered lists in articles, digital posts, and digital presentations. If a title is contained in an item on the list, capitalize the title.
Below, I provide a screenshot from a recent presentation I gave with the above rules applied to the title and bullet points with a title in the list. I think that this slide would look less credible if parts of the title like “content & aesthetics” were lowercase while random phrases in the list like “Freelance Editing” were capitalized.
Hope this helps you refine your rhetorical aesthetics. Do you actually notice issues like these when you surf the web? Let me know if you do, as I’m genuinely curious whether the average reader cares about this. Thanks for reading!