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I am wondering if we should use Title Case or Sentence case for buttons and headings in websites and web/mobile apps?

Title Case:

    enter image description here

Sentence Case:

    enter image description here

In Yahoo's UI guidelines I couldn't find any specific recommendation except for 'choose your style and be consistent'.

Is that all? Or are there any other (additional) recommendations. Like for specific use cases or apps where the one style would be preferred over the other?

Edit: The question refers primarily to English, but differences in other languages are also good to know.

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Is it a desktop application? If so, which platform? –  Bart Gijssens Oct 25 '12 at 11:07
    
Related/possible duplicate: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/28172/… –  Ben Brocka Oct 25 '12 at 12:06
    
@BartGijssens Question is related to web sites/apps –  greenforest Oct 25 '12 at 12:22
    
There are specific guidelines for Windows/Mac OS/... but as far as know there are no guidelines for webapps for this. That instantly makes it an excellent question. –  Bart Gijssens Oct 25 '12 at 13:04
    
You might want to post the question also in [english.stackexchange.com/](english.stackexchange.com/) –  Juan Lanus Oct 25 '12 at 13:33

7 Answers 7

up vote 14 down vote accepted

I prefer 'Sentence case' over 'Title Case' because sentence case respects the difference between proper nouns and the other words.
I always thought that it was customary in English.
In Spanish it is not, we use sentence case, like this traditional argentine newspaper does.
This traditional USA newspaper uses Title Case instead.
These are language differences. For the Spanish for Spanish is not capitalized, same as the weekdays and month names.
US English is more capitalization-prone than Spanish.
UK newspapers use sentence case.
I suspect that Title Case propagates in Spanish pages because it's easier to write and bacause of the influence of the USA sites.

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Good point on language differences, thanks! I updated the question a bit. –  greenforest Oct 25 '12 at 13:36
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Another example is German. German capitalizes all nouns: german.about.com/library/weekly/aa020919a.htm If you use Title Case to a speaker of German, they have to figure out which words are nouns. So in short, I'd just say it depends on the audience. –  David Oct 25 '12 at 15:19
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+1 captions and labels are hardly ever titles. And title case is not even a standard for actual titles. I believe (but I may be wrong) that it is mostly American English that uses title case for titles and many other languages (including other English's) don't. –  Marjan Venema Oct 25 '12 at 18:18

My approach to this is completely style-guide oriented.

The online Oxford Guide Style states:

The general rule is not to use a capital letter unless it is absolutely required.

The book itself states:

Capitalize the first letter of headings and captions.

So it appears Sentence Case is the way to go, event for captions.

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+1 Nice source, thanks! –  greenforest Dec 3 '13 at 9:22
    
Link to overall style guide –  Gary Rowe Jul 15 at 8:14

It depends what you want to achieve. There is some evidence to show that the use of capital letters slows the ability for people to scan content – it breaks the flow. So if you want users to READ and not SCAN the buttons or the titles you should use "Title Case"

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Maybe. Or maybe the capitals impair readability. –  Jimmy Breck-McKye Oct 25 '12 at 12:28
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Text written in all-caps is read slower. This is because caps are more like-shaped among them than lowercases. Like for example QDOC vs. qdoc. We read by glancing mostly the upper part of the letters, which is more monotone in UCs. Also, we are more used to reading lowercase text. Anyway, the recommendation for not writing in all caps doesn't hold for headings or titles, because they are short and their impact in total reading time is negligible. Let alone a single capital per word. –  Juan Lanus Oct 25 '12 at 13:04
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I know that ALL CAPS are hard to read. I know that it will impair readability! My point is, how long would you like your user to look at the title/button? If you want it to scan as fast as possible you should use "Sentence case" but of you want to slow the user down then you should use "Title Case" –  Igor-G Oct 25 '12 at 14:54
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This is a good point, but I think there are much better ways to increase the probability that your users will 'read' instead of 'scan' text, e.g. make the font color red, larger, etc. –  Kenny Evitt Oct 29 '12 at 19:31
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@Igor-G I might not have put my point very well. Are you sure you "Read" rather than "Scan" the title before you decide to look at the content? My point was that the title is something that is usually processed quickly and at a surface level to decide whether or not to enter a more intensive reading mode when going through the actual article. Building a title that is deliberately hostile to scanning seems to me to also be hostile to their primary use-case. –  Racheet Mar 28 at 15:58

With regards to buttons, if you use all-caps, then it allows for perfect vertical centering of the text within the button. No need to worry about ascenders / descenders. However, if your text is longer then 2-3 words it can be difficult to read. This is where sentence-case works well.

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Title Case for Headings and Buttons

It's easier and faster for users if they can to identify the shapes of words.

"We recognize words from their word shape." also called the Bouma Shape.

Read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_recognition

Bouma Shape: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_recognition#Bouma_shape

A Few Examples

http://www.nytimes.com http://www.lifehacker.com http://blog.facebook.com/

The English and Writers SE is Divided

This topic was already discussed in both the English and Writers SE . The consensus for the writers is it depends on the style guide set by the organization.

If non are established, writers may select one and are ok as long as they are consistent.

If there is a style guide your organization subscribes to, look in that. Otherwise, do what you think is right.

Examples of style guides are in one of the Answers: http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/6560/when-should-you-use-title-case

It comes down to style and standards. It's more important, in my opinion, to be consistent.

http://writers.stackexchange.com/questions/10399/how-should-i-capitalise-headlines-for-professional-web-writing-sentence-case-v

Note

My own theory is that internet users will always trend towards efficiency over grammatical correctness so I'm a strong proponent of Title Case. Why else has Urban Dictionary and Internet Acronyms come about?

My assumption is most users will spend less time on titles because they are deciding what content is right for them. Once they decide, the rest of the content follows sentence case and they can take their time if they need to.

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Interesting. Would be great if you could add an example that makes this a bit more 'tangible'. –  greenforest Mar 27 at 9:32
    
I found 2 se articles and a few editorial sites. I'll try to post these as I go as I'm editing on my phone. –  Pdxd Mar 27 at 11:37
    
+1 Thanks for taking the time to add more details! –  greenforest Mar 27 at 20:24
    
Thanks. I also slipped in my headers in Title Case too. I hope that exemplifies my point. :) –  Pdxd Mar 27 at 20:36

Aside from the case that has been made for improved readability, I also argue for sentence case it on the grounds that it's an easier rule to remember for people actually implementing (graphic designers, engineering, writers, etc.). Title case lends itself to all kinds of arbitrary decisions when implementers don't want to be bothered to look up whether "your" should be capitalized or not. This leads to a lot of randomness which looks unprofessional - and we do know that surface errors do contribute to the distrust users might feel toward a site or application.

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+1 for adding "adherence of guidelines" as a new aspect to the discussion –  greenforest Apr 10 at 20:06

Title case for buttons.
As @juan-lanus suggests "US English is more capitalization-prone than Spanish.". As @bart-gijssens suggests there are no widely followed guidelines for webapps, but with Apple's attention to design and their significant share on mobile, I go with title case (title-style) for buttons as described in both iOS (pdf) and Mac HIG (pdf).

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