2 major types of headlines: up and down styles

Generally, in writing headlines, there are 2 major approaches that are employed: the UP and down styles. Personally, I don’t think there is a standard way of doing headlines between the two. The decision lies on the discretion of your editorial board or publication.

Wagener (2005) states that down style means that only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized. Up style refers to the first letter of all major words being capitalized. Down style is considered to be the most readable, but I find that both are equally legible. We use up-style on Poynter Online for headlines.

Up style

In this style, the first and last words in the title or headline and all “major words” in the title are in uppercase. Not all style guides agree as to what should be considered a major word.

Most agree that nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinating conjunctions (ifbecauseasthat, etc.) are major words and should always be in their uppercase. That leaves articles (aanthe), prepositions, and coordinating conjunctions (andbutorfornor) in the minor league where lowercase should be used Unfortunately, as is frequent with arbitrary rules, style guides don’t always agree each other (e.g.: Chicago Manual of Style and AP Stylebook).

Down style

In down style, the only capitalized are the first word of the title and any proper nouns that appear in the title.

Down style has been adopted by many newspapers because it has more convenient rules. The purpose of having style guides is to make reading pleasant by providing a consistent manner of presenting written material although the publication. If you write for yourself, adopt any style you wish for your blog or other publications. If you write for a publication, follow whichever style is recommended.


Whichever style you use in writing headlines, be consistent in using it. Also, make your headlines clear and concise while being brief and direct to the point. It should a few-liner summary of your article.

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