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We currently use UPPERCASE headers and titles quite a bit (probably too much) and are looking to adopt a consistent set of rules for when it makes sense to use...

  • ALL UPPERCASE

  • Capitalize the first word

  • Capitalize Each Word.

I was hoping to find one simple generic rule that covers everything but haven't found it yet. I've found plenty of information regarding why I should never use uppercase ever because IT LOOKS TERRIBLE but that's not what this question is about.


My question specifically revolves around text for things like:

  • labels "Sort by:" or "Sort By:"

  • tooltips "Primary address" or "Primary Address"

  • buttons "Delete user", "Delete User", or "DELETE USER"

  • navigation "HOME" or "Home"

  • breadcrumbs "HOME > MANAGE GROUPS", "Home > Manage Groups", "Home > Manage groups"

  • Isn't this very language-specific? Especially the distinction between style 2 and style 3 should be restricted to a particular language. – O. R. Mapper Mar 27 '15 at 11:36
  • Also, this question might be related. – O. R. Mapper Mar 27 '15 at 11:37
  • More related ux.stackexchange.com/questions/2237/… – DarrylGodden Mar 27 '15 at 11:38
  • I didn't really consider that localization would play a role in the rules we choose. Thanks for those links that really helps. – DaveAlger Mar 27 '15 at 11:45
  • If one can guarantee the use of true small-caps – you can’t on webpages – then they should generally be preferred over all-caps, but faux SC are worse than UC. They should not be mixed with each other. Some fonts even have titling glyphs or hinting (OT feature titl) to improve UC readability. A good use of UC for markup of list items that I frequently encounter is in railroad timetables where they are used cross-media with city names to denote ‘any station in this town’, otherwise they are only useful as a mere styling option for headings, captions and labels that do not (re)appear in prose. – Crissov Mar 27 '15 at 15:29
6

I researched the site with the most unique visitors to see if I could find a consistent pattern.

1. Facebook uses ALL UPPERCASE rarely in place of column header rectangles

headers

2. Facebook capitalizes only the first letter of all the words in a field label

field labels

3. Facebook capitalizes the first letter of important words

In almost all cases where a full sentence isn't used Facebook uses the Titles of Works pattern -- Mark All as Read, News Feed Preferences, Log Out, Report a Problem, ...

top links

menu items

Here is a summary of the general rules that Facebook appears to follow in most cases:

  • Capitalize the first and the last word.
  • Capitalize nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinate conjunctions.
  • Lowercase articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (and, or), and prepositions (of, by, in).
  • Lowercase the infinitive "to".

Source: The Chicago Manual of Style: 16 ed. paragraph 8.155 Titles of Works

  • 1
    "first letter of all the words" stikes me as unclear or open to interpretation. With my first reading I thought you meant "first letter of each word", but looking at the example it appears to mean "first letter of each phrase" or similar. – Kelly Thomas Mar 28 '15 at 3:35
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    +1 vote for informative self answer. Personally I don't think very highly of Facebook’s UX choices but this is a great well researched answer – tohster Mar 28 '15 at 20:58
4

The reason for specific typographic styles (ALL CAPS, Some words Caps, etc...) with regards to heading, title, button, breadcrumbs, and other related materials is due to the mandates of the manual of style that the organization is using.

As Dave references, the Chicago Manual of Style is one of the most popular reference tools as they have been around for a long time and have a very well developed ruleset on how to set text. There are others as well as APA, or NASA. Microsoft even has a manual of style that is more geared towards technical terms and items.

That's not to say that you should be using one of these, but you should either find one, or create one and then stick to that as it will make all of your typesetting uniform and predicable across your company.

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