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April 9, 2024

Title Case vs. Sentence Case: How to Capitalize Your Titles

Title Case vs. Sentence Case: How to Capitalize Your Titles

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Correctly capitalizing your titles and subtitles is crucial for sticking to style guides and giving your writing a polished finish. There are two main styles of capitalization — title case and sentence case — but knowing when to use each and which words to capitalize can be tricky.

Having spent years as a freelance writer, I’ve mastered title case vs. sentence case, and now I want to pass that knowledge on to you.

In this article, I explain the rules around capitalizing your titles so you can apply them to your writing.

Key takeaways

  • Title case vs. sentence case: These are the two main conventions for capitalizing titles and subtitles. 
  • Title case involves capitalizing the major words (such as nouns and verbs) in the sentence, so most words will have a capital letter.
  • Sentence case uses the same capitalization as a normal sentence. The first letter and any proper nouns and titles will be capitalized.
  • Choosing the right case will depend on how formal your writing is and whether you need to use a certain style guide.

What’s the difference between title and sentence case? 

Title case involves capitalizing the first word in a sentence, plus all major words. These include:

  • Nouns (e.g., “book,” “city,” “airplane”)
  • Pronouns (“he,” “she,” “they,” etc.)
  • Verbs (e.g., “ran,” “writing,” “scored”) 
  • Adjectives (such as “loud,” “expansive,” “happy”)
  • Adverbs (e.g., “quickly,” “quietly,” “painfully”) 
  • Subordinating conjunctions (words that connect dependent clauses to independent clauses, such as “although” and “because”)
  • Prepositions (words that give information about place) of five or more letters (e.g., “between”)

In title case, you don’t capitalize minor words unless they come first in the sentence. 

Minor words are short words such as articles (“the” or “a/an”), coordinating conjunctions (words that join compound sentences, such as “and” and “or”), or prepositions of three or fewer letters (e.g., “in” or “on”). 

Look at the examples below to see these rules in action:

  • The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Education 
  • Five Easy Ways to Increase Your Employability
  • The Art of Thinking Quickly
  • He Lived Because of His Surgeon

Pro tip: Check if your formatting guidelines require you to follow a particular style guide. These can have unique rules around which words are major and which are minor, affecting which words you’ll need to capitalize. Continue reading for more details on what to watch out for!

Sentence case, on the other hand, uses the same capitalization rules as a normal sentence. 

You’ll capitalize the first word and any proper nouns (names of people, places, and organizations) and titles (e.g., Doctor, President, Professor). You won’t capitalize common nouns (objects, animals, concepts, etc.) unless they come first in a sentence.

For example:

  • Exclusive offer: 20% off our new range this weekend
  • How to bake delicious banana bread with no sugar
  • An exploration of the Roman Empire with Professor Rossi
  • Your ultimate guide to vacationing in Mexico

In both title and sentence case, words after a colon should be capitalized. For example:

  • Understanding Kant: New Approaches (title case)
  • Local parents uncover truth: Playground to close (sentence case)

When to use title case vs. sentence case

Sometimes, you’ll be told whether to use title case or sentence case — such as when you’re in school or at work and following specific style guidelines. Other times, the choice will be yours.

While there are some scenarios in which it’s more common to see a certain style, the one you pick might depend on how you want your finished piece to look and feel for your reader.

Let’s break down when to use each style. 

When should I use title case? 

Title case tends to be used for more formal scenarios, such as in titles of academic essays, books, magazine articles, and research studies. Because more words are capitalized in title case, it can lend more weight to titles and subtitles and give the included words more importance. 

Additionally, you should use title case whenever you reference a work within your writing. For example: “Many scholars consider The Great Gatsby to be the quintessential work of American literature.”

You should also use title case when you’re:

  • Referencing titles of larger works, such as books and journals, if you’re following the Modern Language Association (MLA) Style Manual. 
  • Following the Chicago Manual of Style (aka Chicago Style).
  • Referencing composition titles (i.e., titles of books, songs, plays, etc.) while following the Associated Press Stylebook (aka AP Style).

When should I use sentence case? 

Sentence case replicates the capitalization of an ordinary sentence, so it feels less formal than title case. That’s why it’s perfect in more casual contexts, such as blog posts, email subject lines, and social media captions.

You should also use it if you’re:

  • Following the American Psychological Association (APA) Style.
  • Referencing shorter works (e.g., articles or chapters) in MLA Style.
  • Writing a newspaper article headline in AP Style.

Title case vs. sentence case: Some style guide quirks

The major style guides — including AP Style, APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style — contain subtle differences between their capitalization rules for title case and sentence case. 

If you need to use a certain style guide, it’s important to double-check the exact rules for each one, as there are too many differences to list in full here. 

However, here are two essential things to bear in mind:


In both Chicago Style and MLA Style title case, all prepositions start with a lowercase letter, even if they’re four or more letters. 

However, in Chicago Style, the preposition should be capitalized if it functions as an adverb (i.e., it describes an action, adjective, or other adverb such as “quickly”). 

For example:

  • The Journey from Beginner to Master
  • Looking Down on the Rest of the World from a Height

In the second example, “down” is a preposition that describes the action of looking. That’s why it has a capital letter in this title, while “from” doesn’t.


The word “to” can fulfill multiple functions in a sentence. Because of this, style guides have unique rules about capitalizing it in title and sentence cases.

Below are the rules to remember, based on how “to” is being used in the sentence.

  • As a preposition (e.g., A Walk to New York): Don’t capitalize. 
  • As an adverb (e.g., Heave To! A Sailor’s Guide on Productivity): Capitalize only when following style guides where adverbs are considered major words, such as Chicago Style.
  • As part of an infinitive verb (e.g., Seven Ways to Cook Chicken): Don’t capitalize unless you’re following AP Style.


Knowing how and when to use title case vs. sentence case can be confusing. However, with this guide, you can feel confident in applying these rules of capitalization to your writing.

Remember that in title case, you need to capitalize the start of the sentence and the major words (generally the nouns, adjectives, adverbs, verbs, pronouns, and subordinating conjunctions) while leaving the minor words (like prepositions and coordinating conjunctions) in lower case. 

In sentence case, you should capitalize the start of the sentence, any proper nouns, and titles — just as you would when writing a normal sentence. 

Don’t forget to double-check details if you need to use a particular style guide, as there may be small differences in what is and isn’t capitalized. 

For more tips on polishing your writing, check out our guides on proofreading and rewriting sentences.


What is title case?

Title case is a stylistic convention for capitalizing words in titles and subtitles. In general, it means capitalizing major words (such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, among others) and leaving minor words (such as coordinating conjunctions) in lower case. Usually, most words will be capitalized. The exact rules can vary if you’re following a particular style guide. 

What words do you not capitalize in a title?

With title case, you typically don’t capitalize prepositions of three letters or less (such as “in” or “on”), articles (“a” or “the”), or coordinating conjunctions (e.g., “and” or “yet”). These rules may change if you’re following a particular style guide. 

In sentence case, you’ll usually only capitalize the first word and any proper nouns, such as people’s names. The rest of the words generally won’t have a capital. 

What is a sentence case example?

An example of a title in sentence case would be “A new film based on the works of Charles Dickens hits cinemas.”