At Verblio (formerly BlogMutt), we work hard to make our own blog an example of what a great business blog can be. Month after month, we look for new ways to grow and improve the Hydrant, and a lot of that is done by our own trial and error. We figure out what works (and what doesn’t) and then take those nuggets of information and pass them along to you, our customers and writers.
One of our most recent blog team projects has been to develop a style guide that we can use to create greater consistency across all of our content. The Hydrant style guide will dictate things like spelling, punctuation, and capitalization, as well as more subtle things like tone and voice.
As you might imagine, there are some style points that we all agree on, like the Oxford comma. However, there are other areas where we disagree. In those cases, we put on our literary boxing gloves for a friendly cage match to settle our differences (but mostly just to give ourselves an excuse to nerd out about writing).
So this week, Courtney and I will be facing off in another Verblio cage match to argue our positions on the issue and answer one question: Should AP-styled headlines be the rule of the land or should every word in a blog title be capitalized?
What does the Associated Press say about headlines?
For those of you who are not familiar, the Associated Press Stylebook is the quintessential journalist’s bible. It defines the rules for how to spell, capitalize, abbreviate, and punctuate pretty much everything in news writing, and has become the industry standard for thousands of publications around the globe.
In regards to capitalization, AP Style follows sentence case capitalization, which says to:
- Capitalize the first word of a title.
- Capitalize all proper nouns.
That’s it. Sweet, simple, easy to read, and easy to remember.
So, why should we also apply AP Style to blog writing? Here are two reasons.
1. Journalists have mastered the art of the headline.
Of course, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to capitalization in headlines, especially when it comes to blog titles. But if there is any industry that truly understands how to write strong, effective headlines, it’s the news industry.
The Associated Press has been around for 170 years, since a time when news was still carried by boat, Pony Express, and telegraph. Their widely respected style guide was first published in 1953 and has continued to grow and evolve alongside our culture and language, year after year.
In my opinion, AP Style guidelines are one of many things bloggers can learn from the journalism industry (Oxford comma aside). Blogging, in many respects, has evolved to be its own form of news-style writing, albeit one that’s not held to the same standards of accuracy and objectivity. As such, AP Style can help give blogs and their headlines the kind of polished professionalism and clarity that makes news writing so readable and effective.
2. AP Style headlines are consistent without being intrusive.
There are many different styles and approaches to headline writing, but AP Style is the simplest and least intrusive. The rules are simple. There’s no ambiguity or room for interpretation, and it still highlights the most important parts of the headline.
Some of my colleagues might argue that capitalizing every word in a headline is equally simple. Like AP Style, there is little to no room for error or interpretation. However, in terms of readability, lower case letters are simply easier and faster to read. Not to mention, capitalizing words like “a,” “of,” or “by” can be distracting, obnoxious, and ultimately, pointless to the reader.
Let’s consider this example:
“How Do I Know If I Need To Go To A Doctor?”
“How do I know if I need to go to a doctor?”
The first example literally made me cringe, which is not a reaction you usually want to elicit in your blog readers. Instead, the goal of a headline is to get your point across fast and to convince the reader to actually read the body of your blog post. Why not make it as easy for them as possible?
In truth, there is no right or wrong way to capitalize blog headlines. The best advice is to pick a style you like and stick to it. But, for the sake of our cage match…AP Style is definitely the best.
Tune in tomorrow for round two: Courtney’s rebuttal.