If You’re Writing B2B Headlines and Subject Lines, Don’t Do This

Which is better? Title Case or Sentence case? It's a small but hotly contested debate.

If You’re Writing B2B Headlines and Subject Lines, Don’t Do This

When it comes to capitalising headlines, the debate between Title Case and Sentence Case can be fierce. While both have their pros and cons, there is a clear winner: sentence case.

Sentence case is the capitalisation of the first word and any proper nouns in a sentence. This style is more casual and conversational, making it less imposing and more approachable. In contrast, title case can come across as formal and rigid.

So don’t do what I did in this headline!

So why is Title Case the default practice now?

Title case has become almost the default option for headlines because of a few key factors.

Firstly it’s been around for ages. It’s hard to know when but a good guess is since Ye Olde Times.

Next, its use supports the UX principle of dominance in web design, providing a solid focal point for the reader and making for a pleasant and effortless reading experience. You don’t want your reader to start with the subtitle or body text before scanning the headline first, right?

It allows the headline to stand-out and improves the reader’s experience. Except when it doesn’t such as when everyone is doing it and there’s not enough content to provide the differentiation like in the example below when I was searching for some data on this topic. Then it becomes hard on the eyes.

Screenshot of Google Search results with capitalised titles

Another reason for the popularity of title case could be its symmetry. Title case can lend a nice balance to a headline, and the mixed use of capital and lowercase letters can make the words stand out and create natural emphasis. Additionally, title case is considered more decorative and clearly stands out as a headline when put into context.

Furthermore, certain industries have a traditional "tone" that content follows in order to fit the personality of the industry. Press releases and books, for example, tend to use title case to give the content a professional and trustworthy feel.

Finally, grammar can come into play. If a headline is a short, punchy phrase, then title case is the logical way to capitalise it. This is especially true for phrases that are less than four words long.

But do you know the rules of Title Case?

As though writing in English isn’t hard enough with rules that aren’t always rules (i before e except…), Title Case has its own guide lines which there isn’t even agreement on as you can see on this Wikipedia page. The below is just the description. Wait till you see how many different organisations have rules on how to use it!

When using title case, all words are capitalised, except for minor words (typically articles, short prepositions, and some conjunctions) that are not the first or last word of the title

So why should we use sentence case instead?

One of the main advantages of sentence case is that it mimics both social media posts and the trend of headlines in newspapers. TechCrunch, a popular tech magazine, switched to sentence case in response to news becoming more of a conversation between the publication and readers. The editor of TechCrunch also noted that sentence case headlines were often clearer.

Sentence case is also easier to remember and apply correctly. With title case, there are many exceptions and variations to the rule, which can make it difficult to use consistently. This is especially important for maintaining the voice of your brand.

Additionally, sentence case is less likely to trigger spam filters. As a B2B, you don’t want to end up in that black pit. Overusing capitalisation in subject lines, such as using all caps or capitalising one full word or doing it on long sentences, significantly increases the chances that your email will go straight to spam. Sentence case avoids this issue and ensures that your emails are more likely to be seen by the recipient.

Then there’s the aesthetics reasoning, sentence case can also be more appealing. While some may find the symmetry of title case appealing, sentence case has a natural flow and allows for more emphasis on individual words. This is especially important in an age where readers are bombarded with headlines and need to be able to quickly scan and understand the content.

There are some industry exceptions, such as insurance and law, where a more formal tone may be necessary. In these cases, title case may be the better option. However, for most industries and audiences, sentence case is the way to go.

It's time to put the debate to rest and embrace sentence case for headlines. Its conversational tone, ease of use, and aesthetics make it the clear choice.