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What is the MetaFilter styleguide on capitalization of titles?
October 11, 2002 5:18 AM   Subscribe

Looking at MetaFilter's front page, one finds an awesome variety of styles regarding capitalization of titles. Is there a preferred style? Which one better enhances readability? I'm not proposing uniformization - just asking what fellow members find most congenial.
posted by MiguelCardoso to MetaFilter-Related at 5:18 AM (62 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Miguel, even I think you're stretching it a bit now. Calm down and ease off the post button there, cowboy.
posted by tj at 5:21 AM on October 11, 2002


i PROPOSE rEVERSE-cAPITALIZATION.

No, scratch that. Éverything has to start with Ηigh-ÄSCII.
posted by rory at 5:30 AM on October 11, 2002


I disagree. I find the use of capital letters on the Web (and on MetaFilter in particular) very interesting. Although there isn't a style book, there are several unwritten conventions, regarding the use of paragraphs, breaks. bold, etc, which are often debated here.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:47 AM on October 11, 2002


This happens to be something that I always notice, though not in a critical way unless it's a professional site or publication. I prefer the Microsoft style as outlined in the TC-Forum link (like this: Capitalization of Titles and Headings).
posted by taz at 6:14 AM on October 11, 2002


Clarification: You're Asking About Capitalization of "Post Titles" (or What Could Possibly Be Considered "Headlines," or That First Sentence That Is Often Linked)?*

(No, seriously.)

I've always favored a colloquial approach to this, possibly because I like to use capitals in prose expressively (though perhaps not quite as loosely as HS Thompson (see the Other Shoe, Evil, Guilt, War-drums, etc).

Buh whuddoo I know?

Now The Objective Case, there's a controversial topic! Woo Hoo!

*Or are you referring to book/magazine/film titles?
posted by Shane at 6:18 AM on October 11, 2002


c@P!+@l!ze, w00+
posted by mkelley at 6:19 AM on October 11, 2002


Miguel, Miguel, Miguel... is your life really this empty?
posted by crunchland at 7:06 AM on October 11, 2002


Miguel, it seems like the only thing I've consistently noticed on MeFi is the inconsistency (that, and the occasional and oh-so-swiftly-smacked-down ALL CAPS posters)...

For my part, I do a lot of writing as a part of my job at a place where strict adherence to style guidelines is a promotable virtue (I work for a "really, really, really big German engineering company you cannot help but have heard of"). I tend to use the same styles when writing personally, here and elsewhere, which are essentially the Chicago Manual of Style guidelines quoted in the article:
"In regular title capitalization, also known as headline style, the first and last words and all nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinating conjunctions (if, because, as, that, etc.) are capitalized. Articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, for, nor), and prepositions, regardless of length, are lowercased unless they are the first or last word of the title..."
Despite my flippant remark above, it seems most posters here tend to go for the "Capitalize the first word" style, which I recognize as a readily accepted American convention. Doesn't bother me, even if I myself don't use it.
posted by JollyWanker at 7:15 AM on October 11, 2002


Miguel, Miguel, Miguel... is your life really this empty?

He's making diamonds in his sphincter. Ask Mr. DeBeers if his life is empty.
posted by machaus at 7:17 AM on October 11, 2002


I detect an interesting trend:

- Those with capitals in their usernames: taking MC's question seriously;
- Those without: not;
- Exception that proves the rule: taz.

(On preview: JollyWanker and machaus conform to the trend!)
posted by rory at 7:21 AM on October 11, 2002


rory

what about the guy with the boobs symbol as username?

posted by matteo at 7:34 AM on October 11, 2002


MiG, like this can be fun.
THIS IS HARD ON THE EYES FOR LONG POSTS
this way the sentence is unbalanced. Needs a capitol T to balance the period at the end for my eyes.
then, QUICK works fine
ByE bYE......................
posted by thomcatspike at 7:36 AM on October 11, 2002


Yeah, what JollyWanker said. Except for the subordinating conjunctions, 'cuz I'm a grammar-rebel living on the edge.

HEY, LOOK AT THIS, ALL CAPS REALLY DO LOOK STUPID AND HURT YOUR EYES...
posted by Shane at 7:36 AM on October 11, 2002


Jinx, thomcatspike!
posted by Shane at 7:37 AM on October 11, 2002


Slow day in Lisbon, is it?
posted by Dean King at 7:41 AM on October 11, 2002


Miguel: as an editor myself, I prefer sentence case capitalization, and it seems to be the default, as noted by Mr. Wanker.

Title Case Seems Unwieldy to Me, Especially When You're Not Sure When It Is Supposed to End.
posted by lackutrol at 7:42 AM on October 11, 2002


Snark serious Answer snark Flippant answer Snark
posted by y2karl at 7:57 AM on October 11, 2002


This is the nitpickiest post I have ever seen in Metatalk.
Who CARES? We aren't being GRADED, are we?
posted by konolia at 8:03 AM on October 11, 2002


HAZEL
posted by clavdivs at 8:07 AM on October 11, 2002


I always capitalize the 'p'. ;-P

posted by mischief at 8:21 AM on October 11, 2002


NUTS?
posted by ginz at 8:39 AM on October 11, 2002


Slow day in Lisbon, is it?

This is the nitpickiest post I have ever seen in Metatalk.

Heh. Perhaps it is a minority interest. Most probably it's a hang-up from having been a newspaper and magazine editor. I apologize to those who are less than enthralled by the issue of capitalization. It's very contentious among those who care about such things.

I was mainly interested in what style's most readable on a screen - the rules that apply to print don't seem to apply here.

Thanks, though, to those who've provided me with clear responses. I'm definitely abandoning my habit of capitalizing every word in a title, as it's begun to annoy even me. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:49 AM on October 11, 2002


something caught in your eye miguel?
;)
posted by clavdivs at 8:54 AM on October 11, 2002


Which part of the post is the title? Is it the whole post, the first sentence, the first line, the link, or what?
posted by timeistight at 8:55 AM on October 11, 2002


Miguel. Please take up golf.
posted by Frasermoo at 8:58 AM on October 11, 2002


I wish everyone who's telling MiguelCardoso to cut it out would just cut it out. Many of us find such style questions interesting and important, and I can't see how having the discussion harms those who are not interested.
posted by timeistight at 9:07 AM on October 11, 2002


timeistight, many posts don't have a specific title - this one for example: "Everyone's heard of peyote as a psychotropic drug of choice..." Others could go either way. "The art of the political campaign song is alive and well." was written in sentence style but could have been written as a sort of "headline" or title. This one was written as a title: "The Gospel According to Harry Potter", which feels right, since it's a very headline-y sort of lead-in.
posted by taz at 9:43 AM on October 11, 2002


I've been so tempted to post the following thread to MetaTalk:

Whenever I visit the glorious blue expanse that is MetaFilter, I'm forced to contemplate the font settings my fellow members utilize. When given the choice to Customize, do you choose the stately Arial, the sophisticated curves of Georgia, or do you prefer something more exotic, like the firey Taco Modern?

But I fear that a) The Management would be displeased, and b) People would take such a pointless thread seriously.
posted by Danelope at 9:46 AM on October 11, 2002


timeistight, those of us giving Miguel a gentle poke in the ribs are trying to suggest that he has asked a question that is incapable of being answered with any degree of consensus, precisely because the rules of capitalization vary from language to language and country to country, and because we all bring those parochial rules with us to this international space.

Miguel says he's not asking for uniformity, just for our opinions, but he already knows what he'll get: American style, because most people here are American. And just the asking of such a question in this place raises people's hackles that Rules are Being Made. And what then? A whole new reign of MeTa terror, where a few zealots start posting 'Bad Capitalization' in threads and link to this post? Or a future MeTa thread noticing that some users capitalize the first word after a colon, and some don't, and asking which is generally preferred? Where does it end?

Style questions at MeFi should (if we must have them) relate to distinctive features of the site itself, like whether to paragraph-break in front page posts. If we start dwelling on questions of English language usage here, it will never end.
posted by rory at 9:50 AM on October 11, 2002


(Okay, maybe that comes off grumpier than it should. But being in the same time zone as Miguel, I often see his posts when they're brand new, and now and then get that horror-movie sensation of watching the smiling child opening up the door to the basement, and wanting to scream NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!)

(Note careful capitalization. Anguished screams should always be capitalized.)
posted by rory at 9:58 AM on October 11, 2002


Hey, thanks, timestight! Surely there's room for some nitpicking, if enough users find it important. Title capitalization does affect presentation and readability and I think we can all learn from each other.

Which part of the post is the title? Is it the whole post, the first sentence, the first line, the link, or what?

That's a (too?) good question. I like the old-fashioned title + description combination, which echoes the headline + lead combo of print. But, as rory says, it is complicated - although you'll find as many variations among American posters as foreign ones.

A title, I'd say, (if there is one - a lot of great posts dispense with them altogether) is generally the first sentence; classically highlighted as the link and followed by a full stop or a comma.

Rory: Thanks for your objections. I agree that any style question can promote an unwelcome pseudo-consensus of what is "appropriate". It wasn't at all my intention. What I thought might be useful would be a list of four, five or six styles (equivalent to those in my link) which we could all choose from, including the time-honoured and very effective style of having no title whatsoever.

I came to celebrate diversity - not to bury it!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:05 AM on October 11, 2002


And just the asking of such a question in this place raises people's hackles that Rules are Being Made.

I blame A.A. Milne. More good honest people become Melodramatic Capitalizers because of his Curious Habits than anyone else you could name.
posted by BinGregory at 10:05 AM on October 11, 2002


i blame e.e. cummings.
posted by yhbc at 10:07 AM on October 11, 2002


If we start dwelling on questions of English language usage here, it will never end.

rory, I confess that I like never-ending discussions of English language usage; I find them a welcome change from the never-ending political discussions.

However, we both know that this discussion will end shortly after it scrolls off the page, if not sooner.
posted by timeistight at 10:35 AM on October 11, 2002


Do not capitalize to in an infinitive phrase ("How to Format Your Hard Disk").

What
The
F@#!
Miguel?

see it's wrong ;P

the rules that apply to print don't seem to apply here. Wait, did you just correct me, Mig?

I kEEp tEllIng YOU, mY rUlE bOOk fOr thIs sItE wAs lOst In thE mAIl.
jInx shAnE
posted by thomcatspike at 10:35 AM on October 11, 2002


I've noticed that some front page posts have even numbers of words and some have odd. What do you all think is appropriate? And should parentheses be used?
posted by languagehat at 10:42 AM on October 11, 2002


The "Happy Birthday Matt!" thread got bumped down the page for this?
posted by Shadowkeeper at 10:48 AM on October 11, 2002


Give over, languagehat! Here's Brown University's invaluable collection of links on Style Manuals - no mention of odd or even number of words - but a hell of a lot more, including capitalization. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:50 AM on October 11, 2002


Someone's been drinking at the font with Richard Kern & the lovely Arial...

posted by Smart Dalek at 10:55 AM on October 11, 2002


The "Happy Birthday Matt!" thread got bumped down the page for this?

Is it still his birthday? Or did you want a month-long celebration?
posted by timeistight at 10:55 AM on October 11, 2002


Well, if it means free wine....
posted by ginz at 10:57 AM on October 11, 2002


Is it still his birthday? Or did you want a month-long celebration?

shhh, you'll blow his jury duty shtick...
posted by machaus at 10:58 AM on October 11, 2002


There was a time I would have agreed this is one of those "what's he been smoking, I wish he'd share" questions, but after participating in chat rooms, message boards, forums, and Metafilter I'd say the use of typing styling does reflect one's personality.

For example some people always self correct immediately after posting if they make a typo or spelling error , while others never do. That gives me a clue of Type A's and B's.

Personally I type conversationally much the same way as I speak, in a rush of thoughts with little editing. But I also know for some reason I adopted using small case letters for every handle I've ever used on the internet. The unconscious theory being that using all small case letters is a sign of femininity, while capitalization reflects masculinity, dominance, and sometimes anger.
posted by oh posey at 11:02 AM on October 11, 2002


hear, hear

*grin*
posted by ginz at 11:09 AM on October 11, 2002


a wr ng h
h t o t
w 's i
w
e.e.cummings?
posted by madprops at 11:23 AM on October 11, 2002


That gives me a clue of Type A's and B's.

I'm type O so I'm compatible to both, really I found at first you experiment or go with the flow. Then when you feel relaxed, a little type O, f-it. When relaxed your creative juices flow thus giving you, your personal type.

languagehat, I also notice from my eye's viewpoint I will delete or add words to even balance things by site.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:25 AM on October 11, 2002


whoops, that should have been:

    a        wr ng   h
  h  t          o         t
w      's                  i
                          w  
e.e.cummings?
posted by madprops at 11:25 AM on October 11, 2002


MetaFilter: It's very contentious among those who care about such things.
posted by MarkAnd at 12:15 PM on October 11, 2002


*puts hands over ears and Screams. Loudly.*
posted by konolia at 12:28 PM on October 11, 2002 [1 favorite]


the lovely Arial

The Scourge of Arial
posted by kirkaracha at 12:29 PM on October 11, 2002


Technically, as a general rule, the following words should be in lower-case in a title:
a, an, and, at, but, by, for, from, in, into, nor, of, on, out, over, to, the, upon, with.

The following words should be in upper-case in a title:
About, After, Are, As, Be, Before, Because, If, Is, It, Its, Not, Than, That, Under, Up, Was, Were.
posted by quam at 12:51 PM on October 11, 2002


time for the buddy hackett impersonation
posted by clavdivs at 1:00 PM on October 11, 2002


For what it's worth, things like this interest me, too.

I don't find differing capitalization ever bothers me as long as it's consistent and makes sense. Even someone who never uses capitalization doesn't bother me (I often do the same when conversing online in a non-forum aspect), as long as there's some semblance of grammar. If the grammar is poor or non-existant, it's sometimes hard to understand the meaning of what's stated.

As a rule of thumb, italics works well for actual titles if you don't want to use capitalization. *shudders at the thought of a million, accidentally all-italics front-page posts*
posted by The God Complex at 1:28 PM on October 11, 2002


quam - what about all the other words? or is that all we're (technically, as a general rule) allowed?

and i'm not being agressive because i'm using lower case. unless i'm a type c, i guess.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:36 PM on October 11, 2002


Double Post!

Sort of. I've just always wanted to say that to Miguel. :)
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:48 PM on October 11, 2002


andrew: Those following words are commonly miscapitalized or are inappropriately provided in lower-case in titles. As for the other words? I guess those are commonly and properly capitalized, or not, in a title.
posted by quam at 2:33 PM on October 11, 2002


The unconscious theory being that using all small case letters is a sign of femininity, while capitalization reflects masculinity, dominance, and sometimes anger

Uh Oh.

That gives me a clue of Type A's and B's.

I am A Negative because Dad's family was originally from Transylvania. The family surname is a form of Bathory, which means I may be related to the infamous Countess Bathory which could explain the possible dominance/anger aspect.

But I plead "not guilty" to the masculine qualities.



posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:35 PM on October 11, 2002


triple post actually.
a few weeks ago i posted a meta thread suggesting we ban the use of proper capitalization entirely on the basis that all that roller coaster text was just too hard on the eyes. matt found it to be excessively hilarious, and so deleted it.
posted by quonsar at 3:38 PM on October 11, 2002


MetaTalk: Not excessively hilarious.
posted by timeistight at 3:43 PM on October 11, 2002


The unconscious theory being that using all small case letters is a sign of femininity, while capitalization reflects masculinity, dominance, and sometimes anger.

Or, conversely, lower case equals carelessness, less education, and pretentious posturing at modesty, while capitalization reflects correctness, precision, literacy and self-confidence.

All in the mind of the beholder. ;)
posted by rushmc at 8:10 PM on October 11, 2002


I blame A.A. Milne. More good honest people become Melodramatic Capitalizers because of his Curious Habits than anyone else you could name.

You say that like it's a Bad Thing...

A keen observation, BinGregory, and one that made me stop and think. But no: in my case, it's 1066 and All That by Sellar and Yeatman. Contemporaries of Milne, and they and Milne would all have picked up the style from Punch.

rory, I confess that I like never-ending discussions of English language usage

I do to, timeistight - used to hang out at alt.english.usage sometimes - but avoiding MeFi/Ta from becoming Usenet II: The Wrath of Mathowie should surely be our utmost priority.
posted by rory at 4:17 AM on October 12, 2002


Pynchon's Mason & Dixon just pisses me off.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:55 AM on October 12, 2002


« Older happy birthday matt... i tried...  |  Grrr. Can we stop with the ad... Newer »

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