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Headline Capitalization: Title Case vs. Sentence Case


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Headline Capitalization: Title Case vs. Sentence Case

October 4th, 2018

We are an American company with different nationalities all working under one roof.  With talent from France, Canada, and more, we constantly learn unique insights from global perspectives. I could spend hours comparing all the cultural differences between France and America, but for now, let’s focus on a major one:

This Headline Irritates Europeans. Do you know why?

Turns out, Europeans write their headlines in sentence case. Yet, Americans grow up using title case. You can imagine our mutual sense of confusion when editing documents.

Quick refresher:

  • Sentence case is when you only capitalize the first letter of the first word in a heading – like you would in a sentence. Proper nouns are also capitalized.
    This is sentence case.
  • With title case (also known as upstyle), you capitalize the first letter of each word: This is Title Case.

Since schools in the US teach students to capitalize headlines using title case, it’s what newspapers and research papers traditionally look like. Unless you use Google’s style guide for reference, most standard guides (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) will tell you to use title case without question.

But that’s not the case for Europeans. International readers aren’t used to seeing title case. Seriously, they only use sentence case. This is why seeing title case can bother them to the point that it actually hurts.

Essentially, the US is the biggest fan of title case. Internationally, however, title case is used in different situations.

For instance, Germans require nouns to be capitalized. Title case would throw off German readers since they would not be able to easily identify the nouns in the title for faster comprehension.


So how does this relate to eCommerce?

If you’re selling internationally, your website and campaign headlines should be one of two things:

  1. Personalized with geo-filtering to use title case for Americans and sentence case for non-Americans.
  2. Using all UPPERCASE or lowercase to avoid the issue entirely.

Who wins the title case vs sentence case battle? It depends on your audience.

Improving the User Experience in delightfully unexpected ways can have a lasting impact. My French colleagues agree that it makes a big difference to conform to local expectations, otherwise, you look like you don’t know what you’re doing. So, ultimately, if you’re writing internationally-targeted content, think global. Use sentence case!


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