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We already had the question about titles to be questions in itself. This is somewhat related, as it's about titles to be titles - or with less words:

Should titles be written in title case or sentence case?

The question did arise when Wilson critizised my atempt to r(e)formate a title into Title case: 'In any case, Random Capi Tal Letters Make It Harder To Read' (Ignoring the over the edge the provocative spelling). Wilson being a native speaker (*1) might be more authorative than I ever will be, still, this is against all I learned about title building. Which goes more along what can be found on the web regarding titles (*2).


*1 - Native to the UK I assume, from name, questions about Sinclair and online timing as his profile doesn't give a hint.

*2 - I even found a title capitalization tool, switchable between different styles.

7

No

Title case makes things stand out

Title case should be used when you're trying to make something stand out and grab people's attention, such as in a bold newspaper headline. As we've already got formatting to distinguish the titles from the content (bigness, position at the top of the page) we don't need to put them in title case to make them stand out.

In fact, most people reading the site will already be on the page; making things grab their attention will merely make it harder for them to read the rest of the content without their eyes jumping back to the title every so often.

Question Titles Are Used for Other Things

As You Can See, It Is Difficult to Scan Titles.

It Is Equally Difficult to Read Them as Your Eyes Are Drawn to Words That Aren't Relevant.

Newspaper Headlines Have to Be Written Carefully to Take Advantage of This Effect, and so Draw Your Eyes towards the Meaningful Content – Headlines Are Shorter than Most of Our Question Titles as a Result.

Given That Titles Are Used in Search Results, the Linked and Related Sidebars and Also in the Hot Network Questions List, in Addition to Anywhere the Question Titles Are Used, It Is Preferable That They Are Readable.

Consistency

Most questions on this site are written in sentence case; consistency trumps most other things. This answer aside, most of the headings I've seen are written in sentence case.

Every single resource I can find on title case (including the link provided in the question) says something like this:

[Sentence case], recommended by the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association for titles in reference lists, is popular with many online and print publications. In fact, it's now the standard form for titles and headlines in most countries—but not (yet) in the United States. — Richard Nordquist, via ThoughtCo.

Not only is this our site's standard, and the world's standard, just look at the Hot Network Questions sidebar; it's the Network standard.

  • I'm sorry, but using tile case for text doesn't make a point, it's just silly, degrading the valid points of your answer. BTW, and maybe revealing, I didn't noticed the usage at first :)) And isn't your first paragraph making my point. And for the thids, all the same arguments are as well true for newspaper articles. Titles there are usually bigger, always cold and at the top, still they are as well made using the title-case. I can't see any difference here. So why not go by default rules? For the last, jsut because it has been often done so, doesn't sanction a rule violation, or does it? – Raffzahn Apr 17 at 12:43
  • @Raffzahn Read down the sidebar; it looks the same. It would be equally unreadable if you used title case for everything there. Hmm… maybe I should switch back to paragraphs for that section, instead of one paragraph with <br />s. – wizzwizz4 Apr 17 at 12:47
  • Hmm, Of the 11 entries of the in my 'hot' bar , 3 are title case (like:"Gordon Ramsay Pudding Recipe" :)) So far everything beside the (subjective) "We (almost) never did it this way" argument couldn't really hold. I would love to see some sustainable argument (As said before, overdoing games about capitalization doesn't really help to make the point) – Raffzahn Apr 17 at 12:53
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    Come on. Take a deep breath and try to be serious. That there is non in your and right now doesn't prove anything - at best it may hint a black swan event, but usually a case of closed eyes. Still, pointing to others isn't makind a point. Or do propagate littering the roads with cans just because others may have already done so? – Raffzahn Apr 17 at 13:03
  • Similar regarding the citation in the Consistency section: as already stated in the question, there seam to be quite some freedom in English to do at will and in individual style. Now, speaking about most countries is a broad claim. Isn't it? – Raffzahn Apr 17 at 13:07
  • @Raffzahn It's the international de facto standard, it's the network's de facto standard, it's our de facto standard, and it's easier to read. I don't see how it's like littering. And yes, in English you can do what you want to an extent; same in electronics. But de facto standards appear there, too. – wizzwizz4 Apr 17 at 13:07
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    I still fail to see it as defacto standard - most of all not international - and even if so, just because people are kicking a can down the road doesn't make it the right way to handle everything. For the easier to read part I beg to differ. Capitalization can help a lot. Just because something feels unfamilar doesn't make it bad, right? Lets have this cool down and see what other opinions come - if others care at all. – Raffzahn Apr 17 at 13:24
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    @Raffzahn True. Let's just wait a bit and see what the rest of the community thinks. – wizzwizz4 Apr 17 at 13:26
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I don't care

My bias is much more to content quality than typography (It may be different in Tex/Latex). If someone wants to post a question using all uppercase (or whatever case he likes most), I'm fine, as long as it is a useful and interesting question.

Let people use whatever case they like most.

3

No, the question summary should not be written as a title.

I've struggled with this myself in the past and not come to a satisfactory conclusion until now. wizzwizz4's answer gave me some further insight and makes a lot of good points, but it doesn't mention what I now believe to be the chief point: how this field is used, i.e., who is reading it and why.

Both the "Hot Network Questions" sidebar and the questions page for a site are read as a list of many items. The purpose of reading this list is to see, for each particular question, whether it's one for which you want read or write answers. That leads me to conclude that the question "title" should not be a title but a summary version of the question.

This summary needs to include enough detail to distinguish its question from others in the same topic area. Traditional titles (be they for a chapter, article or blog post) often don't do this, instead just communicating the general subject area which doesn't much distingush the question from others in that area. Properly distinguishing a question may require writing a sentence, even a long one, which is fine, but then that should be in sentence case for easier readability, especially in a list of these, as wizzwizz4 points out.

Two examples I just picked up off the sidebar:

  1. "What is the best word describing the nature of expiring in a short amount of time, connoting 'losing public attention'?" is much better than, say, "Word to Describe Expiry," though the latter would be a perfectly reasonable title for an article or blog post.

  2. "On the history of Haar measure", a title rather than a sentence, doesn't give me much sense (beyond "something to do with the Haar measure") of what the poster is asking. "What references give a detailed history of the Haar measure?" much better summarizes the question he actually asked in the body.

  • The summary part is a good point. Then again, writing such longish titles counteracts the whole idea, as it makes people writing rather useless word clouds, making it even harder to understand what the question is about. Your first example is much like that. I would prefer the shorter version (well, maybe a bit more toward a normal sentence than your abbreviation). The second example is bad, but not due making a real sentence, but leaving out the question asked at all. To me a title (on RC.SE that is) needs to contain the basic question boiled down to one short sentence. – Raffzahn Jul 24 at 7:50
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[I do know I'm the least to be asked about rules for writing English]

Since the field to enter a title is already titled title (SCNR), I feel it should also be used as such. And proper capitalization is part of doing so.

Yes, titles should (where possible) be proper capitalized

  • Titles are intended to stand out. That's their whole purpose.
  • They are not only meant to catch the readers eye but more so to distinguish them self from any other content.
  • This is not only true on headlines on a front page to sell a copy (*1), but as well on any interior page, even for the smallest note.
  • It is traditionally done by a combiation of methods, usually seperate positioning, bold face, larger font size_ and in addition in title-case.
  • Of the above everything but the title-case is as well present here by page layout.
  • Due the textual nature of the titles text, title-case is to be added by the editor.
  • Lazyness (or the general case of 'other do it as well) doesn't work as argument here.
  • It's a part of spelling regime, isn't it? (*2)

And it's especially the title-case which helps scanning titles for content by allowing to skip 'fillers' (*3).

I may suffer from a school trauma about capitalization in English, still, using sentence-case instead of title-case seams wrong to me.


*1 - Given, English tabloid overdo it easy.

*2 - I know how this works :))

*3 - It could be argued that the newspaper standard may need to be relaxed a bit in capitalization to exclude even more words to really bring out the short hand for scanning.

  • I suspect your native language may affect what you consider easy to read or otherwise ;-). – Stephen Kitt Apr 18 at 14:25
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    I fully support this. A question's title should use Proper English Title Capitalization. But you can see the irony in my usage of an SE link that doesn't do what it asks about. After all, it's just a convention, and in this Gallic village hold-out the convention now says: don't! I regret that, and I find the reasons given for current conventions on SE quite arbitrary. (Sigh, I could come up with less 'rules' but more 'Psychology!' of readability and legibility, or a Queen Amidala reference, but – LangLangC Apr 18 at 20:43
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    Edits are already generally considered to be too minor if changing over from BE to AE (or vice versa). Another example: you do not like changes from - to – (even if I thought them appropriate). So I'd suggest going forward, leading by example, in using proper capitalization, but rejecting any edit that doesn't offer anything else. (That suggestion of course pending affirmation or outrage on this meta thread!) – LangLangC Apr 18 at 20:57
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    Compare Cartaino's answer What should be the default title case for non-technical questions? // I see a nice experiment on the horizon: If title case stands out, is easier to read/parse, signals a bunch of things etc, then let's just see how that fares against the current trend of 'de facto standards'. My inner bolshevik wants to abolish majuskel as the way of the future that charlemagne gave to us, but the allure of Captital(s) can't be denied. – LangLangC Apr 18 at 21:06
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    @LangLangC I really enjoyed that rant :)) – Raffzahn Apr 18 at 22:26
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    This is technically the Right Answer and I came here to agree with it, but I have to admit, the title of your question does look a bit weird, especially in the list view on the front page. I guess that's because it is a question and not a normal title. A "proper" title would be something like: "Question Title Capitalisation Rules" but that wouldn't be a question. Consequently, I also upvoted tofro's answer. – JeremyP Apr 26 at 15:46
  • I happen to disagree with you on this, but I'd like to note that it's perfectly reasonable for you to contribute to discussions about English usage; that you're not a native speaker and make errors in English usage from time to time does not mean that you have no knowledge of it. In fact, having learned English as a foreign language gives you information that native speakers won't usually have. – Curt J. Sampson Jul 24 at 6:53
  • One thing you may want to consider is that as a German speaker you may find reading caps internal to a sentence to be less jarring than English-only speakers like me do. – Curt J. Sampson Jul 24 at 6:54
  • @CurtJ.Sampson Quite the contrary. English title capitalization looks even more weird then whats used in non title situations. German capitalisation is more like that as it only targets certain words. – Raffzahn Jul 24 at 7:42
  • Interesting to know! Thanks. (And come to think of it, now that you mention targeting certain words I'm fairly comfortable with that in English, too, though perhaps that's through some reading of Relatively Old Works where they would capitalise Words of Importance as a sort of way of Stressing them.) – Curt J. Sampson Jul 24 at 7:42
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    @CurtJ.Sampson Proper nouns are capitalised; in old works, whether a noun was proper was more to do with meaning than grammar. See: "To the ends of Being and ideal Grace" in Sonnet 43 (is that the right number?). Totally off-topic, but thought I'd let you know. – wizzwizz4 Jul 26 at 12:48

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