Copyeditors, Advice on Capitalization Needed

Short but important:

If a text (a course textbook, in this case) contains a graph or a box with important keywords, is the heading within that box capitalized? (e.g. “The Most Important Aspects of a Management Project”, followed by just five short keywords or sentence fragments.)
And do you capitalize the caption beneath it? (“Fig. 1: The Most Important…”)
What if it does not contain text, just a graph and a caption? Capitalized anyway? (“Fig. 1: Another One of These Graphs” or “Fig. 1: Another one of these graphs”)

Is there a difference between the US and GB?

And can anyone recommend me a good style guide on the internet?


Hmmmm… Can’t Help With the Capitalization Problem, but as to goods style guides I recommend, the website of Bill Walsh, the Copy Chief of the Washington Post. The section there called “Sharp Points” contains a lot of good tips for copy editors.

Thanks, cankerist, I´ll see if I find something there.

One more question: If a word in a headline is hyphenated, does only the first part have a capital letter? (e.g. Long-winded)

I am UK/Ireland-based, but I’d say:

No, do not use “title case” for captions or headings. Sentence case is fine. Look at any newspaper!

It might be different in the US.

Oh, I forgot to specify:
I´ve got to use US spelling in this one (hard enough if you´re not used to it), so I want to be consistent and use US style.

So, US copy editors, would you use caps in individual chapter headlines at all?

US headlines, according to cankerist’s cite, take title case. Don’t know about the captions.

Capitalizing Titles and Captions

This is completely a style and design choice – it’s up to you, or the standard style of the publisher (if they have one) for textbooks. You – or better yet your layout/design person – should ask yourself whether capitalizing makes it easier to read and understand (by pointing out an important new topic or sidebar), or Whether It Just Makes It Harder To Read Because the Capitals Keep Distracting the Reader. And keep in mind there are other typographic and layout ways of emphasizing a title.

My strong personal preference would be to not capitalize every word of a caption, if we’re talking about explanatory text below a picture or graph.
If the title is above the box, then there is an argument for capitalization, but only if the header is very short (only a title, not explanation at all).

Style guides I have used say treat parts of a hyphenated word as separate for purposes of capitalization.

Filibuster Record Set by Long-Winded Senator

(Prepositions of 4 letters and shorter are not capitalized. “To” is capitalized if it marks an infnitive but not if it’s a preposition. These are probably not universal, though.)

I suggest you check out
they’ll help you sort it out.

Copyeditor checking in.

I concur with Quercus and CookingWithGas, with one exception: Whether to cap prepositions of a certain length is also a style decision. Some of my clients prefer to lowercase all of them, while others cap at five or more letters. Consistency in a single document is the key.

Included in the lowercase rule are articles (a, an, the) and coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or, yet, so).

Also, infinitive “to” is lowercased in most styles.

Another point about capping preps: Cap them (as well as any other words) at the beginning or end of a title (“Over the Rainbow,” “Three Strikes and You’re Out”) and when they are part of a verb (“Giving Up the Ghost”).

Great, thanks everyone!
So Scarlett67, would it be basically ok not to capitalize the individual chapter headlines ? There´s one on almost every page and as they´re quite long, it does make them rather hard to read. (The 10 golden rules of this and that, with every rule being a 1-page chapter in its own right.)
I always though you had to capitalize headlines, I didn´t know you could choose - that´s great!
No capitalization on the powerpoint-slides, I suppose?