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I'm working on an internal app that requires users to input very long titles that almost always includes people's names.

These titles are obtained from legal documents where many times, it would written either in title-case or all-caps - which we have no control of as these documents are only handed over to us from various sources.

The user would then have to copy over these titles into our platform and because they could be handling hundreds of documents in a day, speed is crucial. As a result, our list of titles in display are a mixture of title-case and all-caps when ideally it should all be title-case.

What would be the best way to make sure all our titles are consistent (title-case)?

  1. We could assign a simple text-transform: capitalize: CSS property, but this will be an issue for last names such as McDonald which will be auto-converted to Mcdonald

  2. In the title input field, add a button that will convert text into title-case. This way, after conversion, the user still has the liberty to convert Mcdonald into McDonald

The problem with this approach though is that if the user does not do the conversion and retains an all-caps title, then it defeats the purpose of the feature.

Any other ideas?

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    How does the internal user know what the correct capitalization is for someone's name? Do you have other sources to reference for recognizing these names? Seems at least one other person on the internet looked for a programmatic way to address this, but it's certainly not foolproof—a person may, for whatever reason, never capitalize their "Macgregor" surname. Jun 29 '21 at 21:02
  • @maxathousand Ah good question. We never really know, but in we just go off of general spelling. No, we don't have resources, however, the legal document handed over to us can very well include many instances of this person's name which could display the correct casing.
    – Beans
    Jun 29 '21 at 21:57
  • @maxathousand Just looking for a quick way to do this that isn't too much of a technical and design lift. Another idea I came up with is: 3. In the title textfield field, auto-convert the casing to title-case immediately - so all first letters of a word will be capitalized. But still give the user the liberty to change letters in between a word so they can update the casing on those manually if need be.
    – Beans
    Jun 29 '21 at 22:01
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As a person whose surname is McDonald, I find it very common that systems don't handle the uppercase D very well. Personally, I find it annoying, but it's so prevalent I assume if the system doesn't care about the correct capitalisation neither should I?

Some systems force uppercase (UK Passport and UK Driving license are examples) which I can only assume avoid ambiguity between upper case i and lower case l when checking information accuracy is important.

In the context of your system I would be asking the question, what is the purpose of the title?

  • Is it to accurately reflect what's written on the legal document verbatim?
  • Is it to accurately reflect how the person themself would write their name?
  • Is it to speed up the data entry of names in the system?
  • Is it so that the users of the system can quickly read the name without confusion?

What I'd be trying to do here is define the requirements or needs of the information both in terms of data entry and retrieval and prioritise those appropriately.

It's not quite clear from your post but it sounds like it's a mix of speedy data entry and displaying the name in a consistent form? Perhaps if you can prioritise the needs the answer will present itself.

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  • For the user, it's a mix of speedy data entry and also being able to search through these titles. There is already a built-in search functionality (albeit not so great), but even then, they'd still need to read through the list of search results.
    – Beans
    Jul 1 '21 at 19:36
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These titles are obtained from legal documents where many times, it would written either in title-case or all-caps - which we have no control of as these documents are only handed over to us from various sources.

and

As a result, our list of titles in display are a mixture of title-case and all-caps when ideally it should all be title-case.

As we can see you want to achieve comfort in displaying titles regarless of initial source from document. So you may capitalize in the most suitable way while output title to display.

If you need a kind of constant format of names while storing them, personally I prefer use all capitals - this is the most neutral way. (And historical - do you remember terminals and printers without lowercase letters?)

If you need to store real data from sources you shouldn't rely on people entering data - you will have more or less mistakes but you will have them for sure. Maybe this is time to implement OCR technologies to make process faster and more reliable?

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  • Serg - Thanks, that would be the easiest approach and something we did consider. Unfortunately, all caps affects readability negatively. Especially that the date we are posting are mostly phrases and (relatively) short sentences that include names of people.
    – Beans
    Jul 1 '21 at 19:29
  • Do you enter firstname and lastname into separate fields at input form?
    – Serg
    Jul 1 '21 at 20:34
  • Serg - No, it's all a single field. This single field can contain up to 2 different names of people.
    – Beans
    Jul 6 '21 at 19:53
  • I see, thanks. This makes unacceptable another potentially possible technology - using names dicrtionary.
    – Serg
    Jul 7 '21 at 6:48

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