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In header menus on websites, is it best practice to capitalize header items?

Home | Members | About Us | Contact Us

To Captitalize the first letter

Home | Members | About us | Contact us

Or to use lower case

home | members | about us | contact us

Or to use CAPITALS

HOME | MEMBERS | ABOUT US | CONTACT US

Are there any studies that show mental processign times for these 4 different flavours?

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You're missing the option HOME | MEMBERS | ABOUT US | CONTACT US which I get handed by designers all too frequently. –  Rahul Nov 24 '10 at 12:06
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@Rahul: I understand that all-caps is slightly less legible than lower-case (~12% slower to read), but it's an accepted form of emphasis for non-body text. And I'd argue that for short text like navigation, it's an acceptible trade-off for both the aesthetics and ease of locating the navigation items amongst a page full of lowercase text. I.e. taking an extra millisecond to read the navigation menu versus taking an extra millisecond to recognize the navigation menu. –  Lèse majesté Nov 24 '10 at 16:51
    
Putting the design issue aside for a sec, are the 2nd and 3rd options even correct English? (Assuming menu buttons are kind of title, and are they?) And is there a difference between UK-Eng and US-Eng in this case? –  Aviel Gross Jan 21 at 8:49
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2 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I could go on at length about this but here is not the proper forum (former life = education consultant in the area of language acquisition (LA), and LA delays).

So, in short: As function of the text is critical to what you are doing, your best bet is to provide some sort of emphasis to the text without interfering with its legibility. The simplest way to do this is to capitalize the first letter of each word, as in your first example.

In fact, your current order of examples is pretty much in the order of best to worst options.

Obviously the graphic design for the page must also be taken into account - but we don't have that here, so my opinion is based purely on what will readers most quickly comprehend.

(The initial cap only approach seems to be getting more popular - e.g., The title - which is a pity. Western readers most readily associate this appearance with the beginning of a sentence and so expect to see more text immediately follow. When more text does not follow - as in your case - it causes a momentary pause, an adjustment. It takes only milliseconds, but it does occur, and I would recommend avoiding it if possible.)

Note that Rahul's non-example would be, in almost every instance, the worst decision you could make.

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Why is this not the proper forum? I'd love to read your more in-depth answer. –  yarian Feb 6 '13 at 17:39
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Although not a formal study, there are some good arguments here for the use of sentence case. Personally, I go with sentence case, but the general advice is that it's not that important whether you go with sentence case or initial case, but it is important that you consistently stick with one or the other.

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