Everything you need to know about headline styles and capitalization.Click To Tweet
Understanding Different Headline Writing StylesAs my former editors would tell you, style is not everything; consistency is everything. Understanding headline capitalization styles will enable you to create your own style manual to inform how you write your headlines and keep yourself consistent across all your content. A great guide for writing headlines across styles is this compilation of style guides from across sources, but here are a few styles you can use to inform your own guide.
AP StyleAP Style is the preferred writing style for most journalists and news media organizations. The Associated Press Stylebook is updated yearly and is the complete guide to news writing styles, format, punctuation, word choice, and any other aspect of media writing. AP Style is designed to ensure consistent, uniform writing and ease of understanding across channels. The AP Stylebook is a long and very detail-oriented book, but this AP Style Cheat Sheet is designed to make AP Style a little easier to understand.
Wikipedia Manual of StyleThe Wikipedia Manual of Style is the style manual for all Wikipedia articles. It was created in order to ensure that all volunteer editors for Wikipedia use consistent language, style, and format throughout the Wikipedia platform. Because Wikipedia strictly enforces these guidelines across their platform, their user-generated content stays consistent and Wikipedia’s content oversight board doesn’t have to get involved in format editing within its pages. This is a textbook example of the effectiveness of a quality style manual applied to a broad range of content. Go read through some of the aspects of this style manual. Do you have that sort of consistency across your content? If not, it’s time to get to work on a style guide for your channels.
Academic style (APA, Chicago, MLA)For our purposes, these academic writing styles are not that valuable to go over, but in the interest of making this a complete guide, I will give a brief overview of what they are.
- APA Style: The official style of the American Psychological Association, mainly used for research papers within the social sciences.
- Chicago Style: Mainly used for research papers within business, history, and fine arts. One main component of Chicago style is the use of footnotes throughout the paper — referring readers to the bibliography of the paper.
- MLA Style: MLA stands for the Modern Language Association. This style is designed to guide student research papers and is one of the most commonly used styles in academia. It mainly concerns itself with writing mechanics, like quotation, punctuation, and citation of sources.
Basic Principles of Writing Headlines in AP StyleUnder AP Style:
- Capitalize only the first word of your headline and all proper nouns or abbreviations; all other words should be lowercase (e.g. “The people making North Dakota’s future bright”).
- Use numerals for all numbers (e.g. “3 ways to write headlines” as opposed to “Three ways to write headlines”).
- Use single quotes for quotation marks in headlines (e.g. “Why Joe said ‘no’”).
Basic Principles of Writing Headlines in Title CaseWhen writing title case headlines, major words are capitalized while minor words are lowercase.
- Major words are nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, adverbs, and basically any word four letters or longer.
- Minor words are conjunctions that are three letters or less, short prepositions, and all articles.
- The first word of the title — including minor words.
- The first word after any punctuation (semicolon, em dash, end punctuation, etc.) except for commas.
- Words four letters or longer (With, After, Then, etc.).
- All major words — including post-hyphen words (“Last-Minute” as opposed to “Last-minute”).
Title case is recommended in APA Style for in-text titles, all heading levels, paper headlines, periodical titles, figure titles, and table titles.Click To Tweet
Basic Principles of Writing Headlines in Sentence CaseIn sentence case, most words are going to be lowercase except for:
- The first word in the title/heading/subtitle
- Proper nouns
- The first word after an em dash, semicolon, or end punctuation
- Any noun followed by letters or numbers