12

TLDR

In short, given the following two options:

  • This is sentence case
  • This is Title Case

Has any research been done into which one is more user-friendly, especially considering dyslexia and other reading disabilities?


Long story

I've been trying to find the best way to capitalize headings, menu items and other UI features.

After reading several blog articles about sentence vs title case, I've yet to find research results that show how this capitalization affects users. Questions that I'd love to weigh against each-other include:

  • Which option easier to scan
  • Is there a favorite for users with reading disability
  • Do form factors affect this issue (font-size, color, font)
  • Does culture affect this at all
  • Does either option affect reading comprehension
  • Does it affect retention

I'd love to cut out all the "user preference" reasons and get down to finding why users prefer specific capitalization methods.

For example, I know I prefer Sentence case over Title Case because it's quieter on my eyes. I could reason that this is because I'm used to most body text being sentence case. You wouldn't write an entire book in Title Case, for example.

While I find explanations like this useful, they are not conclusive, as they're not based on research. So I'd love to get some actual numbers to go with this, if at all possible.

  • 1
    Interesting; I wonder if there is any research on this. I think conventions like title case exist as ways to identify different types of content when only one typeface was available (e.g. documents created on typewriters). These days, there are many other ways to stylistically signal that something is a title. – user31143 Nov 10 '14 at 7:17
  • As somebody with moderate dyslexia...certainly capital B and D can help to tell them apart...but then the D looks like a small a in many type faces :( On computers small Ls are the devil. – the other one Nov 10 '14 at 9:12
  • @dan1111 that's my fear as well. Wish I could prove it. – Dirk v B Nov 10 '14 at 20:41
11

Interesting question.
I think you can have a look at the paper "Letter case and text legibility in normal and low vision".
In the abstract you can read:

Using a single unaltered font and all upper-, all lower-, and mixed-case text, we assessed size thresholds for words and random strings, and reading speeds for text with normal and visually impaired participants.

The results?

Lower-case thresholds were roughly 0.1 log unit higher than upper. Reading speeds were higher for upper- than for mixed-case text at sizes twice acuity size; at larger sizes, the upper-case advantage disappeared. Results suggest that upper-case is more legible than the other case styles, especially for visually-impaired readers, because smaller letter sizes can be used than with the other case styles, with no diminution of legibility.

While I was reading the study above, I also remembered that in some languages (e.g., German) nouns are written with capital letters.
I've done some (quick) research and I've found this study, "Eye Movements Reveal Interplay Between Noun Capitalization and Word Class During Reading":

Subjects' eye movements were recorded while they read sentences for comprehension. Sentences were presented with capitalized nouns — in agreement with German spelling rules — or completely in lowercase.

The results?

Overall reading speed was not influenced by the manipulation of capitalization, but fixation durations were affected by the interplay between capitalization and the word classes of the fixated and the succeeding word.

I hope these paper will give you some helpful hint.

  • Great, great stuff. I'll be reading that on the way home from work today. – Dirk v B Nov 10 '14 at 23:54
0

Sentence case is better - but let me quote others:

The biggest reason to use sentence case is that it’s easier to read, especially when the text gets long. Can You Imagine How Difficult It Would Be to Constantly Read Long Titles in Title Case?

...

According to Google’s first UX writer, Sue Factor, one of the main reasons why Google decided to go with sentence case was because it was just easier to explain to designers and engineers.

...

Just as title case looks more formal and serious, sentence case looks more casual and friendly. I’m a writer at Dropbox, and we intentionally write in sentence case because we want our brand to feel natural and approachable.

Capitalised words are not easy to read for multiple reasons. One is that people are much more used to reading words in lowercase letters, so those are what our brains find easiest to scan and instantly absorb.

  1. Do not capitalise whole words or phrases.

  2. Use sentence capital case in headlines and subheads.

  3. Use sentence case for buttons.

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