Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 6th Aug 2016 01:36 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces

Can you spot the differences with the messages above? The left side has a few more capital letters than the right side. Big O, little o. Who cares, right?

Well, if you write for an app or website, you should care. A little thing like capitalization can actually be a big deal. Capitalization affects readability, comprehension, and usability. It even impacts how people view your brand.

While there are some more objective arguments to be made, most arguments for and against either title case or sentence case mostly come down to whatever you're used to - what you grew up with. Title case looks entirely ridiculous and confusing to me, and makes dialog boxes, text, and other things much harder to read than when it's in sentence case.

The reason? We don't use title case in Dutch. Everything is sentence case. In English, it's mostly a case of preference, and either case type is fine as long as you're consistent.

Interestingly enough, Apple - generally considered the poster child for title case - actually localises its choice for case type. When you run Apple software in, say, Dutch - it doesn't use title case at all, opting for sentence case instead, because that's the norm in Dutch.

Title case also appears to be on its way out - generally, while pre-internet publications use title case, publications originating from the internet generally use sentence case. I wouldn't be surprised to see title case fall into disuse almost entirely over the coming decades in English - including at Apple. There's going to be an inflection point where title case will simply look incredibly out of place in English, as younger generations grow up on new publications that do not use it.

Title case is old - very old - probably because lowercase evolved out of uppercase, and over the centuries, we've been slowly pushing uppercase letters to perform very specific functions in text. Capitals have become an integral and core part of punctuation rules in every (?) language using on the Latin, Greek (?), and Cyrillic (?) scripts, and while there is some variation here and there - e.g. German holding on to capitalising every single noun, not just proper nouns - there's a remarkable consistency between them.

I'm fairly certain English' title case is the odd-one out, and as the internet continues to break down barriers between cultures and languages, title case will eventually disappear from English, too.

Thread beginning with comment 632840
To view parent comment, click here.
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
RE[3]: More a US English thing
by mdsama on Sat 6th Aug 2016 09:39 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: More a US English thing"
mdsama
Member since:
2005-07-08

Check the Sydney Morning Herald or the Globe and Mail (or many others) - their headlines are in sentence case.

I think there's a good chance that names - book titles, organisations, etc. - will remain title case, even with its slightly complicated rules for short words.

But headlines are a strange in-between case, including grammatically (e.g. leaving out words, stilted phrasing...). Kind of makes sense there's no consensus on whether they're titles or sentences.

The linked article talks about using title case for things that aren't titles at all, though, like dialogue messages, website blurbs and button labels, which you'd think would make no sense... I guess that's why it lists confusion about when to switch to title case as one of its disadvantages.

Reply Parent Score: 1

Brendan Member since:
2005-11-16

Hi,

Yes - headlines are a messy grey areas for multiple reasons.

The linked article talks about using title case for things that aren't titles at all, though, like dialogue messages, website blurbs and button labels, which you'd think would make no sense... I guess that's why it lists confusion about when to switch to title case as one of its disadvantages.


For dialog boxes; to me they seem unfinished without both a title and a description (which would also help to make it clear what to do with capitals). It's the "title and description merged into one thing" that causes confusion.

- Brendan

Reply Parent Score: 2