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I thought all or a majority of words need to be capitalized when it's a title. The form that I fill out to ask a question on here says title and after the question is submitted it's displayed using a larger font. Therefore I see this a cue to capitalize all or a majority of words in the title.

I was surprised to see a user recommend that I use sentence casing for one of my questions and for another one it got edited to use sentence casing where only the first word is uppercase. Are they right or wrong for doing that? What's going on here?

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    Yes, You Should Capitalize All the Words if You Want Your Question to Look Slightly Pretentious. On the other hand, using normal capitalization is perfectly OK. – alephzero Sep 12 at 15:16
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    Cross site duplicate: here, here and here. Consensus: don't. – isanae Sep 12 at 19:55
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    @alephzero even worse, I read that like William Shatner would say it. "Yes. You. Should. Capiltalise. All. The. Words..." etc like each word is a separate sentence with a trailing gap. – Criggie Sep 12 at 22:41
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    Word to the wise: capitalize the first word and only other words that take a capital letter like English. sentence casing?? Like a sausage?//Should all or most words Stack Overflow/Stack Exchange be capitalized? – Lambie Sep 12 at 23:02
  • Hi! Which words shouldn't be capitalized? According to which standards? You wrote the words or, in, a, and be non-capitalized.. – Deschele Schilder Sep 14 at 4:34
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No. The title of a question is not like a book title, but more like a sectional heading. It should be written as a sentence and use sentence case.

Title case is used in such thing as titles of books. For example: "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" (Note that little words like "and", "the" aren't capitalised)

Some newspapers use title case for headlines. It is more common in the USA. Here we use title case for the title of this website: "StackExchange English Language Learners" (and style StackExchange in camel case)

But the titles of questions are really "headings". They should normally be written in sentence case, and use sentence grammar. So write a question like:

Should each word in a StackExchange question title be capitalized?

and not a headline:

Words Capitalized on StackExchange

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13

Use of capitals in titles is much more common in the US than in Britain; I've no idea what the conventions are in other countries. In the UK, people find the typography of headlines in US newspapers (today's NYT has Now It’s Not Safe at Home Either. Wildfires Bring Ashen Air Into the House) jarring and rather antiquated (and no-one knows why "at" and "the" are treated differently from "It's" and "Into"). StackOverflow has an international user base, and although it has an American bias in some areas (such as its selection of Captchas), it avoids dictating that its members should use American spelling or typography.

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    A really quick peek at some Canadian and Australian newspapers/sites indicates they don't capitalize (almost) every word either: thestar.com theglobeandmail.com news.com.au theaustralian.com.au Of course that's still not every English-speaking country but I guess those are the largest ones. – ilkkachu Sep 12 at 19:01
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    "at" and "the" are treated differently because they're connecting words (preposition and article, respectively), meaning they're less important. Although "Into" is also a preposition, so IDK why it's capitalized. "It" is a pronoun, so it has to be capitalized. – wjandrea Sep 12 at 19:11
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    I thought India was the largest English speaking country? Of course they have many other languages as well. – UuDdLrLrSs Sep 13 at 1:04
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    I still don't know why the BBC uses Nasa but not Bbc – uhoh Sep 13 at 20:24
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    @uhoh Because NASA is pronounced Nasa, and BBC is pronounced BeeBeeCee – Jacob Raihle Sep 14 at 7:45
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You are asking this on a language-related SE site, but in addition to language, this could be seen as a question about the customs on SE. (Along with such questions as "should one include 'Hello' and 'Thank you' as part of questions posted here".)

From that viewpoint, the answer is easy to gather: just now, I glanced at the "Hot Network Questions" list, and the question list on the front page of ell.stackexchange.com, both had just one question with All Words Uppercased in total, this one. The edits and comments you've received are also an indicator of that. Having all words capitalized makes this question stand out from the list, and not in a good way.

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I think it’s up to the discretion of the asker.

You can read up on different ways to use case in titles, as I believe there are a few different ways of doing this; there are probably strict guidelines you can follow in academia.

For the question you have asked here, I think ordinary sentence case would be acceptable, as you’ve phrased it as a complete sentence/question, but it’s also acceptable as a title.

You could also phrase it as more of a title, and use title case, e.g.:

Capitalisation in Stack Exchange Questions

In that case, I’d be much more likely to do it in a title case, as above.

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A Stack Exchange title is often written as a question, and therefore it is preferred to not use title case.

Often or not, capitalisation of titles and headings is a convention rather than a set rule. For example, the APA style requires title case for all headings. However, AMS asks for sentence case headings (capitalize first word only). I actually lost marks on an assignment recently because I followed the AMS convention (I'm a Math/CS major) when the guidelines said title case.

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If it ends with a punctuation mark it's a sentence and should be capitalised as such (leading word and proper nouns only).

If it doesn't end with a punctuation mark it's a title, and significant words should have an initial capital.

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  • 1
    An interesting rule. Citation Needed – Michael Kay Sep 14 at 7:49
  • Offered as a concise suggestion rather than an established rule. – Mark Morgan Lloyd Sep 14 at 7:51

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