Sign up ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I’m not a native English speaker. I’ve noticed that in titles or headlines, many words often start with a capital letter while others are still lowercase. As an example, the title of my question would most likely be:

Capital Letters in Headlines

I already found a solution on how it’s done, but I still want to know why.

share|improve this question

closed as general reference by tchrist, StoneyB, Carlo_R., RegDwigнt Nov 23 '12 at 15:40

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Welcome to ELU. I don't think you will find a linguistic "Why" for this. There are no "rules": some journals follow conventional title-casing, others do not. What a headline is intended to communicate is only incidentally its linguistic content; the primary "content" is "You would be interested in reading this", which is communicated as much by attention-getting typography as by the words. Consequently, I think this question is off-topic. – StoneyB Nov 23 '12 at 14:54
In addition, I invite you to visit, and possibly support, the proposed English Language Learners site. It may well be below-grade for you; your contribution as one who has learned English would be valued. – StoneyB Nov 23 '12 at 14:56
I honestly cannot understand what question is being asked here. Are you asking for what the rules are for determining the case of words in a newspaper headline or a journal article, or some such? – tchrist Nov 23 '12 at 14:58
@tchrist I want to know why capitalisation in headlines is done differently from the "normal" grammatical rules. – André Stannek Nov 23 '12 at 15:01
I think the question is Why are so Many Words Capitalized in American Publications? (as opposed to, say, British publications, which tend only to capitalise proper nouns) – Andrew Leach Nov 23 '12 at 15:02

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

According to Wikipedia, this phenomenon is called title case, and:

Among U.S. book publishers (but not newspaper publishers), it is a common typographic practice to capitalize "important" words in titles and headings. This is an old form of emphasis, similar to the more modern practice of using a larger or boldface font for titles.

So, basically, it's done for emphasis.

share|improve this answer
It's done by many U.S. newspaper publishers, as well (but usually not by U.K. ones). – Peter Shor Nov 23 '12 at 15:29
I have never seen a book not titled in title-case. That would be Wrong. I believe this answer misrepresents what is going on. – tchrist Nov 23 '12 at 15:36
@tchrist A certain well-known publisher has one -- but I only know that because I happen to have a copy on my desk! And then there's this one, although Amazon list the title in conventional American form. A British listing would probably be different. – Andrew Leach Nov 23 '12 at 15:44
@tchrist: I agree with you; I was also surprised to see that Wikipedia focusses so much on US as opposed to UK publishers. I publish frequently with UK houses and title casing is very common. Still, my point still holds: it's for emphasis. – CesarGon Nov 23 '12 at 18:39

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.