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I'm developing an Android/iPhone application. My translator for English localization uses a lot of capitalization. For example, in the app menu, it suggests:

|Export Data to Folder|
|Prevent Screen Lock  |

I would simply use

|Export data to folder|
|Prevent screen lock  |

What is the best choice?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by MετάEd, RyeɃreḁd, phenry, medica, Brian Hooper Apr 12 at 11:19

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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It's not 'every' word, check again with other cases. Talk to the translator. It can be seen that the 'significant terms' are capitalized, which is correct. –  Kris Apr 11 at 11:33
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It's style, like other say. To me, it makes it look like German. –  MatthewMartin Apr 11 at 12:03
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This is more of a user interface question. If I'm not entirely incorrect, operating system vendors have style guides for this. The people at UX.SE could probably expand on this. –  ntoskrnl Apr 11 at 13:13
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I disagree with putting this on hold as opinion-based. However, @ntoskrnl is probably right that this is off-topic. Ideally, a migration to UX.SE would be beneficial. (My answer does come from a UX standpoint.) –  Brian S Apr 14 at 13:55
    
My question is about the correctness of having capitalization on every noun, but non only from a UI point of view! So this is not off topic for me. –  Seraphim Apr 14 at 13:58

7 Answers 7

Using Title Case (e.g. Export Data to Folder) rather than Sentence Case (e.g. Export data to folder) usually depends on the style of your organisation. There are many guides about when to use it e.g. MLA, APA, and AP.

However, as it's a style thing, there may be no set rule for your app, so whichever you prefer will be perfectly acceptable.

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5  
I have to say, as a longtime computer user (and lifelong English user), I'm used to all menu selections being capitalized this way. For instance, I can pull down the Firefox menu on this browser, and every single item has every word capitalized. –  T.E.D. Apr 11 at 12:23
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@T.E.D. Thanks to you, I just noticed that Chrome's menus are not consistent. "New tab" vs "Recent Tabs" –  Tim S. Apr 11 at 13:16
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@TimS. And finally to cap it all off, Internet Explorer and the handful of other Microsoft applications I just checked all use sentence case; there is by no means an industry consensus. Consistency is all you can shoot for (maybe Chrome considers Recent Tabs a proper noun as it is a location, and not a command?). –  Alexis Beingessner Apr 11 at 13:21
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@AlexisBeingessner On my current version of IE, it seems kind of random (my personal favorite is "Add site to Start menu"). However, my other Microsoft apps do seem to be fairly consistent (eg: "New Items" and "Reply All") –  T.E.D. Apr 11 at 14:49
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@T.E.D. IE is fairly consistent, I'd say; it uses lowercase except for things that are proper nouns. (Or should I say proper names; I can never tell those apart.) –  Mr Lister Apr 11 at 16:27

I think your translator is correct. Most app development guidelines state that Labels and the like should be capitalized. An example - OS X interface guideline. But since they are just guidelines, you are not forced to follow them, even though it would be a good idea to do so.

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While I'm typing this in the Safari browser, I had a quick look at the menus, and everything is capitalised except the words "and", "as", "in" and "to". So while I can't say whether your translator is right or wrong, he or she is in good company. And what's good for a MacOS X application written by Apple is probably good for an iOS application. For Android, hopefully someone has read a style guide for Android and can tell you. An example in Safari is

Bring All to Front

which is just like your translator would have done it.

As I said, I don't know if it is a general rule, but there is nothing to indicate that Apple isn't following a general rule. But be that as it may, the OP's problem is to get translations that are correct in the context of an application running on iOS or Android. And personally I think using words like "consuetude", especially following "typical", don't contribute to making your comment understandable.

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Ok, so it's a tipical Apple consuetude... but not a general rule –  Seraphim Apr 11 at 12:49
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A 'typical consuetude' [an established custom, esp. one having legal force]? How about 'typical shibboleth' [an old idea, opinion, or saying that is commonly believed and repeated but that may be seen as old-fashioned or untrue]? Or even 'style choice'. –  Edwin Ashworth Apr 11 at 13:08

Blackberry Best Practices specifically recommends Title Case for menu items.

Android Best Practices doesn't have a specific recommendation, but the examples in their Menu guide use "Compose email" and "Reply all" which suggests a preference for Sentence Case.

I cannot find a (relevant) best practices document or webpage for iOS or Windows Phone. (Most deal with the actual code, not the user experience.) However, the Windows Phone App Bar guide uses all lower case in the example images.

As you can see, there doesn't appear to be a standard capitalization for menu items across devices, and as far as I can tell, only Blackberry specifically recommends anything in particular. As you're creating a cross-platform multi-lingual app, I would simply recommend that you keep things consistent.

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As an alternative to the other answers, it is possible that your translator is considering things like "Data", "Folder", and "Screen Lock" to be proper nouns. This is certainly not necessary, as data, folders, and screen locks are generic, but it's fine stylistically.

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You're finding out that English is not a 'rule-constrained' language. Whatever rules there are have lots of exceptions. There are only rules for when you must capitalize, but not for when you must not. Most people that use title casing (what you're describing) use it just because they think it looks better.

I experienced the opposite. We were translating our site to Spanish, so we sent our texts to a professional translator. Our marketing director kept trying to make the translator do Title Case to match the English version, but she was adamant that in Spanish there are specific rules on when a word should start with a capital letter or not.

So, is it correct in capitalizing everything? not really, but it's also not incorrect. As long as you're consistent, should be ok.

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The choice between Title Case and Sentence case ought perhaps be driven by your intended audience. In general, Title Case is preferred in the US, Sentence case elsewhere. You just need to look at home-grown newspapers. Try UK's The Guardian versus US's The Wall Street Journal.

The predominance of Title Case in some software applications may be attributed to the American homeland of many of the big software companies, but American speakers of English are in a minority, globally speaking, and you may choose the far more international, elegant and desirable Sentence case instead.

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