The Case Against Caps

As you’ve edited various manuscripts, you’ve probably noticed the propensity of some authors to type headings in all caps, as I’ve done with the title of this article. This holdover from the days of typewriting is, to put it bluntly, bad practice. Why? Because in typesetting or desktop publishing, putting a heading in all caps is a design decision, not an editorial one. Headings are generally set apart from body text with a different font or point size, not with capital letters.

If you leave headings in all caps, designers are going to change them anyway–probably by *retyping* them, and *without* telling you. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch any new typos and improper capitalizations *before* the publication goes to press. Personally, I don’t like the risk.

Fortunately, Microsoft Word makes it fairly easy to change an all-caps heading to title case:

1. Select the heading you want to change.

2. Click the “Format” menu.

3. Click “Change Case.”

4. Click “Title Case.”

5. Click “OK.”

If you did that with the title of this article, for example, you’d get this: “The Case Against Caps.”

Unfortunately, as you’ve probably noticed, you’ll still have to lowercase articles, prepositions, and conjunctions by hand to get proper title case. For example, you’d need to lowercase “Against” in the title of this article: “The Case against Caps.”

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a macro that took care of that automatically? Our Editor’s ToolKit program includes one. Just select the text you want formatted as title case and then run the macro (called “Make Selection Title Case”). Nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs will be uppercased. Commonly used articles, prepositions, and conjunctions will be lowercased. Pretty neat! You can download and try the program free of charge for 45 days:

What if a design calls for all caps? The caps should be applied through formatting, not typing all-cap characters. As I’ve said before, you should format headings with one of Microsoft Word’s built-in heading styles, such as Heading 1. Then if you want headings to be set in all caps, you can do this:

1. Place your cursor in a heading formatted with the style you want to be all caps.

2. Click the “Format” menu.

3. Click “Style.”

4. Click the “Modify” button.

5. Click the “Format” button.

6. Click “Font.”

7. Put a check in the “All Caps” checkbox.

8. Click the “OK” button.

9. Click the next “OK” button.

10. Click the “Close” button.

All of the headings formatted with that style will now be in all caps.

Changed your mind? You can change the headings back to title case by reversing the procedure. And that may be the strongest argument in the case against caps.

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