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I've seen questions and answers about the "when", but I don't really understand the reason to use this Horrible Way to Type Sentences Which Obviously Hinders Readability. It's really bad when in a newspaper or on a site you see an article with a long title with names and unique terms which are normally capitalized, and in certain contexts may look ambiguous and confusing, especially when common words are used in product names. Sometimes you don't know right away where a thing's name starts and where it ends.

Why was title case invented in the first place? What problem does this style of writing solve? Does that same problem exist still in the modern world? And does it apply to electronic media which didn't exist back then?

  • Capital letters themselves can be traced back to Jerome in the 3rd century A.D. This article deals with it but refers to Latin and Greek so is off-topic and only suitable in comment. As to Title Case, I think that will be harder to trace, myself. – Nigel J May 30 '18 at 0:20
  • Ok, but what about the oldest explanations in stylistic guidelines for printed media? If such a thing exists, maybe we could start from there. – user1306322 May 30 '18 at 0:22
  • Why do we have capital letters at all? Why do we normally capitalize the first letter of each of our names? – Jason Bassford Supports Monica May 30 '18 at 6:38
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    That's right. So, do you see a difference between "I was reading quietly" and "I was reading Quietly"? Capital letters in book titles are used for orthographic purposes in order do "disambiguate" them from their surrounding text. Just as is the case with our names. (And with sentences.) You could argue that other methods could be used —but it's the same principle. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica May 30 '18 at 8:25
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    No, the question is clear. You're talking about writing the first letter of every word in capital letters in headlines, titles and the like. Are you perhaps someone whose language is not European, or whose language uses a different script other than Roman alphabet? – Mari-Lou A May 31 '18 at 14:26
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What problem does Title Case exist to solve?

Well title case was probably introduced for, well, titles. I wouldn’t use it anywhere else.

It is a solution to the problem of:

“How do I get my title to stand out, maintaining maximum readability and conveying the information as effectively as possible?”

So its basis is psychology or perception, and it is as relevant to the modern world and to electronic media as it was to the 19th century.

What is title case?

Capitalizing only important title words, e.g. those other than articles, conjunctions and prepositions. Taking examples from book covers:

The Struggle for Mastery in Europe: 1848-1918

However, what not to capitalize can be somewhat subjective. That is not unnatural, as the principle is to emphasize what is important, and that can be subjective. Here the preposition “before” is capitalized:

Two Years Before the Mast

whereas here the verb construction “would be” is not, although the pronoun “Who” is:

The Man Who would be King

What is not title case?

Two Years Before The Mast

i.e. what you get with the ‘Title Case’ option in MS Word.

However

As many titles are set in upper case, it is not relevant there.

Nachwort

The use of title case may feasibly have been influenced by the German orthographic rule of capitalizing nouns. However I am unaware of any evidence for that.

  • So I'm assuming this was a way to mark something as a title within the text of the same font size and style (not bold, not italicized or underlined or otherwise decorated), where the only way to put emphasis on the text is to use capital letters? – user1306322 May 31 '18 at 14:12
  • No. It’s not used in the body text, except perhaps to refer to the title of a book. It’s only normally used for headings or subheadings. – David May 31 '18 at 14:22
  • alright I just wanted to make sure there wasn't a misunderstanding – user1306322 May 31 '18 at 14:23
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I think we use capitals to indicate that something is a specific item and not the concept. For example if am reading about the history of the decline and fall of the Roman empire, I might read The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Without title case this can cause ambiguity. In law we use title case routinely to refer to specific items ("The Response") in contrast to topics ("a response.")

I don't have sources, just my thoughts.

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    I have no idea of the supporting evidence for this, but people's proper names typically have the first letter of each name capitalized. When thinking of a book title, it could be considered the item's "proper name" in the same sense. This orthography could then be a way of having the title of the thing stand out from its running text. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica May 30 '18 at 6:36
  • I don't have enough reputation to comment on the original post. I think @user1306322 is having trouble with the idea that title case and standard capitalization is pretty much the same thing. We say "The Duke of York" for example. Maybe his question really is - why is title case used in X context. – BobtheMagicMoose May 30 '18 at 16:08
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    I don't really see a distinction between the reason for capital letters and the reason for title case. In my mind, they had the same origin and purpose. Nor do I see a problem with those elements it's currently used with. (Unless this is related specifically to headlines—which some publishers do use sentence case for instead.) My only issue might be with its inconsistent styling, but that's something else. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica May 30 '18 at 16:24

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