Words at work

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Sentence case: meaning, examples, and checkers

Jessica Malnik

Jessica Malnik

With every title and subheading comes the need to figure out how it should be capitalized.

Depending on your style guidelines, the answer will likely be either title case or, more likely, sentence case. Sentence case is one of the most common capitalization styles out there. You’ll likely run into making the decision when writing a paper, essay, or blog post that includes a heading and subheading.

But what’s the difference between sentence case and title case, and does it matter which style you use?

In this post, we’ll answer all of these questions and give you examples of how to correctly use sentence case in your writing. We’ll also share our favorite free tools for automatically checking and converting your text into sentence case.

What is sentence case?

Sentence case, also known as down style or reference style, is a capitalization style. For this post, we’ll refer to it as its most common name: sentence case. This capitalization style is common in both the academic and professional worlds.

You’ve likely seen sentence case used in newspaper headlines and subheadlines this isn’t the only place you’ll find it. Sentence case can be part of a report, webpage, article, or another piece of work. Keep in mind that in addition to titles, sentence case rules can apply to subtitles, headings, and subheadings.

When you use sentence case, you capitalize just the first letter of the first word in the title. The rest of the words and letters in the title should not be capitalized, unless they’re proper nouns. True to its name, you’re essentially writing a sentence case title the same way you would a regular sentence.

However, some special circumstances will require capitalization in different parts of the sentence. For instance, like we mentioned, a proper noun would need to be uppercase no matter where it falls in the header.

What’s the difference between sentence case and title case?

Different writing style guides and different situations call for either sentence or title case. But what’s the difference?

With sentence case, as mentioned above, you’ll need to capitalize the first letter of the first word in the title. The rest of the words aren’t capitalized, except for proper nouns.

However, title case is nearly the opposite. The first letter of each word in the title should be capitalized with title case. Like sentence case, this rule does have exceptions. Prepositions, articles, and other small words should be lowercase —his means words like “a,” “but,” “and,” or “of.” But in general, most of the words in title case will be capitalized.

Examples of sentence case style

Sentence case is easy to get the hang of with a little bit of practice. To get started, here are some examples you can reference.

Example 1:

Correct: Breaking news: building to be demolished on Johnson Street Incorrect: Breaking news: Tunnel to be renovated on east side

Why: The first word after a colon should not be capitalized. Proper nouns still need to be capitalized in sentence case.

Example 2:

Correct: Quarter 2 inventory report Incorrect: Quarter Three Cash Flow Numbers

Why: Titles of reports do not need to be capitalized in sentence case.

Example 3:

Correct: “News flash” written by Dave Joe Incorrect: “New Updates” Written by Jamie Smith

Why: Titles of written works should not be capitalized in sentence case.

Example 4:

Correct: The story of Walt Johnson Incorrect: The life of mandy barnes

Why: Names should still be capitalized in sentence case.

Example 5:

Correct: The best restaurants in Washington Incorrect: Places to visit in southern california

Why: Countries, states, cities, etc., are all proper nouns and need to be written in uppercase.

Example 6:

Correct: The weather forecast for Middleburg Incorrect: the damage caused by last night’s tornado

Why: The first letter in sentence case must be capitalized.

Example 7:

Correct: Local business hosts a charity at Generic Theater Incorrect: The meeting was held at burger place

Why: The names of places like restaurants and buildings are considered proper nouns. They should be capitalized.

Example 8:

Correct: The journey of two stray dogs Incorrect: Adopted: Spot And Fido

Why: Small words, articles, and prepositions should not be capitalized in sentence case.

Example 9:

Correct: Seven ways Aunt Helen contributed to her community Incorrect: Her Mother founded the mission

Why: Family relationship references (such as aunt, uncle, and cousin)should only be capitalized if they’re used as a proper noun. Otherwise, they should be lowercase with the rest of the common nouns in a sentence case title.

Example 10:

Correct: Retirement fund report findings Incorrect: Quarterly Contributions to Your 401(k)

Why: This subhead in a report needs to follow sentence case guidelines.

Example 11:

Correct: Mac and Bill’s report Incorrect: James and Terry’s Summary

Why: Names must be capitalized, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the sentence should follow title case guidelines.

 Example 12:

Correct: Two-thirds of respondents chose the blue dress Correct OR Incorrect (depending on the styleguide): Long-Term results are unlikely

Why: This one is a bit tricky. Typically, you want to lowercase all letters after the first one in sentence case unless it’s a proper noun. However, various style guides have different rules for hyphenated words like the ones above. Check your specific guide for capitalization rules in this case.

Best free online sentence case checkers

These tools can all be used to proofread your work by checking for the correct use of sentence case.

If you miss the capitalization of a proper noun or forget to lowercase a word, these three online checkers will automatically fix it for you — and they’re free to use!

1. Convert Case

This tool is free to use and simple to navigate. Just drop your text in the box and watch your title get converted to sentence case at the click of a button. Once your work has been checked and converted to proper sentence case, if applicable, you can download or copy the new text to your clipboard.

2. Case Converter

Case Converter is an easy-to-use, web-based converter tool. To check your work, pop your text into the box and press one of four options: “UPPER CASE,” “lower case,” “Proper Case,” and “Sentence case.” You’ll want to select “Sentence case” here, but note that “Proper Case” shouldn’t be mistaken for title case. With proper case, all of the first letters of a word are capitalized, even articles, short words, and prepositions.

3. HTML Cleaner

HTML Cleaner lets you check and convert text to sentence case as well as other capitalization styles like “uppercase,” “snake_case,” and even “RaNdOM.” This site is useful for more than just sentence case checking. It’s great for anyone working on a website because it lets you copy text without the messy code that can disrupt your formatting. The tool lets you work in CSS, JS, and of course, HTML. But you don’t need to mess with code to use it. Just use it to check your sentence case titles for free!

At the end of the day, you’ll want to refer to your writing style guide to see where you need to use sentence case and title case. Follow the guidelines, practice writing in sentence case, and don’t be afraid to use a case checker to verify your work.

Looking to use sentence case consistently in headlines and headings? Try Writer! Start a free trial today and customize your style guide.