JS Tip 202: From the Writing Workshops: Subject Lines and Capital Letters

Don Wasko of the City of Carlsbad, California, asked if it was appropriate to capitalize the first letter of every word in a subject line.  

This is an area in transition. There’s no right answer.

Subject lines and headings serve the same purpose as headlines in a newspaper. They attract the readers’ attention. They alert the readers to what the text is about. 

You have two options: 

One. Capitalize first letter of the major words. Leave the small words uncapitalized. Your e-mail to the your boss would read, “Request for a Raise.” “Request” and “Raise” capitalized; “for” and “a” uncapitalized. 

Two. Capitalize the first letter of the first word of the subject line. “Request for a raise.” 

The trend seems to be to the second option. Newspapers influence the trend. 

The more traditional Wall Street Journal’s headline reads, “Heinz Sold as Deals Take Off.” All major words capitalized.

The more progressive USA Today’s headline reads, “Passengers leave disabled cruise.” The first word—and no others—capitalized. 

You decide. You’re right either way. If someone objects, you can reply, “Hey, buster. Look at The Wall Street Journal” or “Hey, buster. Look at USA Today.”

We follow the Wall Street Journal model.

And the Winning Tips Entry—

Goes to Zuleika Quezada at Wells Fargo Bank. She submitted a tip from May 14th, 2009. Our sixth tip. Wow.

We received many, many entries from all over the world. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You’re great to work with. We appreciate you.    

If you have questions, comments, or arguments, let us know. We love this stuff.