is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
I’m kind of a freak about capitalization. Not that I know how to capitalize things properly every time, but I feel that at the very least I aspire to capitalize the right words in a title. Doing so, I find, adds a subtle but worthwhile dollop of goodness to written text. Proper capitalization shows that you care about the English language, that you know that in a given headline, not all words should be treated with equal emphasis, that some of them deserve more prominence than others. In that sense, capitalization is, to me, the very same thing as good typography.
Alas, not very many people seem to share this passion. There are folks who care about grammar and spelling, but few people care much about whether the first letter in a given word within a headline should be upper case or lower case — that seems to be a bridge too far for most. And I’ve never seen software that cares about capitalization, either; most software is completely disinterested in written style, and even word processors show only a fleeting interest in grammar, much less capitalization.
Which is why I was so happy to come across TitleCapitalization.com, a very, very simple site that does nothing else but automatically correct your written text so that it appears in proper title case. So if you have a headline like “Jumping From The Ledge Upon The Landing,” you can enter it quickly into this site’s sole entry box and find out instantly that the correct capitalization is in fact, “Jumping from the Ledge upon the Landing.” Isn’t that much better?
The site’s rules are adapted from “The Chicago Manual of Style”:
- Capitalize the first and the last word.
- Capitalize nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinate conjunctions.
- Lowercase articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions, and prepositions.
- Lowercase the “to” in an infinitive (I want to play guitar).
I never thought I’d see anyone interested enough in capitalization to translate these rules of grammar into software, but in fact the script that powers this is based on work by Daring Fireball’s John Gruber (of course!), done way back in 2008. I had missed it until now. I intend to urge every developer that I work with to adapt this script going forward — and if you work on software I hope you’ll try to implement it, too. Your grade school grammar teacher will be very proud of you if you do.
Update, 11 Feb 2016 A new option is Capitalize My Title, a new site that lets users toggle between capitalization according to four different style manuals—APA, AP, MLA, and Chicago. It’s worth a look at capitalizemytitle.com.+