Capitalization Rules for User Guide Titles
by ClickHelp — best technical writing tool
It seems capitalization is becoming sort of a problem. If you take a look at multiple websites, you’ll see the same word capitalized in different ways. I mean, is it Microsoft or MicroSoft? Or do we just write microsoft and call it a day?
Some user guides capitalize each word within a title, some leave out the preposition, and others go for the classic: capitalize the first word and the proper nouns.
The problem is that, there are a lot of articles out there that focus on capitalization from a grammatical standpoint, but when it comes to technical writing, the information is rather lacking.
Why Is This Even a Thing?
When a company is creating technical documentation, they might be inclined to use capital letters for those things they want to highlight — because they are, or feel important. The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t offer a consistent style, making the user manual look sloppy and unprofessional.
It also makes the document harder to read. Capitalization isn’t a stylistic approach technical writers can use to highlight an idea. Not to mention, excessive capitalization can be distracting. If you want to draw attention to a certain idea, you should use italics or even special notices.
As you’ve probably discovered already, capitalization can be a bit confusing. A lot of technical writers have a difficult time figuring out what letter they should capitalize and when.
So, here are a few rules to keep in mind:
- Words containing four or more letters, regardless of their place within the title.
- Always capitalize the first word of your headline regardless of length or part of speech. It applies for the subtitle as well.
- Always capitalize the last word of your headline.
- Conjunctions (so, and, but, or, yet, etc.) articles (the, a, an), or short prepositions (at, to, in, off, up, for, by, for) are not to be capitalized. Other parts of speech should.
Essentially, your titles will have most of its words capitalized (apart from a few exceptions), while a subtitle acts like a regular sentence. As such, a subtitle will have the first word capitalized and the proper nouns (if there are any).
The biggest difficulty technical writers might face is deciding what to do with the short words like “one,” “are,” “its,” “own,” “him” or others. Unless they are conjunctions, articles or short prepositions, these short words need to be capitalized regardless of their place within the title.
It’s All About Style
Sure, some might look at this issue and consider it to be of less importance when setting out a documentation plan. However, considering that your user guides will most likely have various titles and subtitles, technical writers need to focus on making it easier for their readers to scan through the document.
You can learn more on how to plan this right in this recent article of ours — How to Write User Documentation and Help Manuals.
A style established clearly for each of these sections doesn’t only give your materials a more professional look, but it also helps users consume it easily. Just as you re-read the material to make sure your content is correct grammatically, you should do the same about capitalization.
While spell checkers are now integrated in text editors of many help authoring tools, capitalization can’t be checked that easily. So, it’s up to you to spread these rules inside your team and make your technical documentation look even more pro.
Good Luck with your technical writing!
Originally published at https://clickhelp.com.