Capitalization in Titles & Lists Update (Wikipedia Has Different Standards?)

Hi, friends. In December, I published a post on capitalization in titles and lists. Since then, a conversation with a coworker who plays a semi-significant role in Wikipedia caused me to question everything.

Typical Capitalization Standards

In Capitalization in Titles & Lists, I explained the general standards for titles and lists. For titles, capitalize every important word (almost everything besides articles and prepositional words like “of” and “the”). Examples: 5 Ways to Make Your Blog Easier to Read, Who Else Was Obsessed with Lisa Frank?, I Freaking Love O Brother, Where Art Thou?. For lists, capitalize the first word and lowercase the rest. If a proper noun falls in the list, capitalize it. Here is an example to-do list with a title in it:

  • Mow the lawn
  • Paint the garage door
  • Water the plants
  • Order take-out from Miss Molly’s Diner

Wikipedia Standards

wikipedia

In an attempt to “avoid unnecessary capitalization,” Wikipedia treats titles like lists. In other words, a title that I personally would write as “1950s American Automobile Culture” would instead read “1950s American automobile culture” on Wikipedia (cool article my coworker wrote). I learned that the way I recommend for titles (capitalize every significant word) is called “title case,” whereas the way I recommend for lists (capitalize first word only) is called “sentence case.” Click here for more.

Bottom Line

I like my way and I’m sticking to it! Kidding but also not. Title case used to be the norm, but I found in my research that sentence case is used for titles about as much as title case now. At the end of the day, these rules are arbitrary. As Wikipedia states in the article about their standards, consistency is key. Pick a way to capitalize your content (either first word only or all significant words) and exercise your standard consistently. Inconsistent capitalization damages your ethos (if you want to appear professional).

Thanks for reading!

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