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Capitalization of Titles in Headings

Capitalization of titles and headings can evoke a lot of confusion. Section and chapter headings are capitalized in a different way depending on the formatting style required in your academic institution.

There are three main variants of capitalizing headings in your academic paper - you capitalize all full-meaning and significant words, only the first word, and combine the two options. When you write essay online, the programs or tools will help you format headings. However, it can be more challenging if you do it on your own.

Option 1. Capitalization of All Full-Meaning Words

Define all the significant words and full-meaning parts of speech and capitalize them, for example,

  • Chapter 3 Literature Review
  • Section 3.1 History of Ballroom Latin Dance
  • Section 3.2 Introduction of Ballroom Latin into the North American Culture
  • Section 3.2.1 The Famous Schools and Associations
  • Section 3.2.2 Prominent Dancers and Researchers
  • Section 3.3 Ballroom Latin Dance Spread Across Europe and Worldwide

You may experience difficulty with what words to consider significant. In general, the list includes nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs. Though you need to be sure that the word belongs to one of these categories. So, maybe it is easier to concentrate on the words that do not have an independent meaning, such as articles (a, an, the), conjunctions (and, or, but), or prepositions (in, on, at).

Remember that some prepositions and conjunctions containing three or more letters can be capitalized, depending on your formatting style. For example, prepositions of four letters (over, through, etc.) are capitalized in APA. In Chicago/Turabian, however, all the prepositions, irrelatively of the number of letters in them, are lowercase. When you have doubts about what to choose, look at the style guide for the academic format you need.

Option 2. Capitalization of Only the First Word

You can capitalize only the first word in the title and all the proper names if there are no other formatting requirements. This way of capitalization is characteristic of MLA.

  • Chapter 3 Literature review
  • Section 3.1 History of ballroom Latin dance
  • Section 3.2 Introduction of ballroom Latin into the North American culture
  • Section 3.2.1 The famous schools and associations
  • Section 3.2.2 Prominent dancers and researchers
  • Section 3.3 Ballroom Latin dance spread across Europe and worldwide

You can also use it if your academic institution does not impose any specific formatting requirements on your writing assignments.

Option 3. Capitalization Varied by Levels

You can use different patterns of headings according to the levels in the combination of all meaningful words capitalized for one level and only the first word capitalized for the other level, for example,

  • Chapter 3 Literature Review (level 1)
  • Section 3.1 History of ballroom Latin dance (level 2)
  • Section 3.2 Introduction of ballroom Latin into the North American culture (level 2)
  • Section 3.2.1 The famous schools and associations (level 3)
  • Section 3.2.2 Prominent dancers and researchers (level 3)
  • Section 3.3 Ballroom Latin dance spread across Europe and worldwide (level 2)

This way of capitalization may seem rather complicated and confusing. Moreover, you have to be very careful to be consistent throughout the paper. So, you should use it only if it is required by your professor or institution.

Proper Nouns Are Always Capitalized

You should capitalize all the proper names of people, geographical objects, formal names of organizations, and other unique things, no matter what formatting style you are using in your paper. For example, the word ‘Latin’ in the example above is capitalized throughout all the contexts.

However, the titles for theories, scientific concepts, and thought schools are not proper names. The only element that needs capitalization in them is the name of their authors or founders. For example,

Wrong❌ Right✔️
Jordan’s Theory of Split Particles Jordan’s theory of split particles
Hailey’s Seven-Word Creative Approach Hailey’s seven-word creative approach
The Contemporary Dance School The contemporary dance school

Choosing One Option and Staying Consistent

Thus, the question may arise about what capitalization option to choose. It depends on the formatting style. For example, in APA, you capitalize all the heading levels from 1 to 5. MLA has some specific requirements.

Nevertheless, if there are no requirements, the recommendation is to choose either option 1 or 2. It is much easier because you will not have to consider all the rules and instructions that may regulate the third option. Another reason for making such a choice is that too many uppercase letters may distract your reader’s attention and make it difficult for them to understand what the chapter or section is about, especially if the title is long.

No matter which option you choose, capitalize all the headings consistently throughout the paper. It refers not only to the main chapters and sections but also to all the supplementary materials and parts, including appendices, acknowledgments, table of contents, reference lists, tables or figures lists, and abstracts.

You should be very careful about composing the table of contents. Look through it after the completion. Try to use the same titles in the same format throughout the text. You can also utilize Microsoft Word to format this table automatically, and all the other headings will be formatted similarly.

Remember that all the aspects of the headings and titles in the text should accurately correspond with those in the table of contents.

Final Thoughts

Therefore, you can see now what rules and regulations you need to follow while making and formatting the titles and headings of your academic paper. Try to avoid too complicated and mixed formatting if it is not required by your instructor. Make all the titles concise and clear. Follow the same format in all the chapters and sections and all the supplementary parts and materials.

If your paper is formatted properly and all the titles are capitalized in one consistent format, it will deserve the highest scores. After making the titles, you can read this article again and check our tips. We hope that they will be helpful.

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