What Is Sentence Case? | Explanation & Examples

Sentence case is a capitalization style or set of rules describing when to use lowercase and uppercase letters in headings and subheadings. Whether you are writing a research paper, a blog, or a newspaper article, you may have to decide which words need to be capitalized.

In English, the standard is to capitalize the first letter of a sentence. All other letters should be in lowercase with a few exceptions, such as proper nouns (e.g., “Texas”), abbreviations (e.g., “Dr.”), and acronyms (e.g., “NATO”). Because this style follows the same capitalization rules as sentences, it is called “sentence case.”

Note
The titles of longer works (e.g., books, movies) are generally italicized, while the titles of shorter works (e.g., articles, poems) are usually enclosed in quotation marks.

However, different style guides may have different rules. It’s important to consistently follow the rules outlined in your chosen style guide. You can also use the Scribbr citation generator, which automatically proposes the correct capitalization for citations.

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How to use sentence case

When using sentence case, capitalize the first letter of the first word of your title or subheading.

In addition, you need to capitalize proper nouns, such as the names of specific people (e.g., “Tom”), places (e.g., “Italy”), or things (e.g., “the Golden Gate Bridge”) as opposed to common nouns like “person,” “country,” or “bridge.” All other words should be written in lowercase.

Example: Sentence case
The best way to cook pasta.

The best way to cook pasta like an Italian.

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Sentence case vs. title case

Sentence case is used when you write a title or a subheading the same way you would write a regular sentence. In sentence case, the first letter of the first word is capitalized, and all other letters and words that follow are in lowercase, except for proper nouns (e.g., “Major heat wave arrives in California”).

In contrast, title case is used when you capitalize the initial letter of most words in a sentence. Just like in sentence case, some exceptions apply to title case as well. For example, title case distinguishes between major and minor words:

Title case is primarily used for the titles of published works (like books, movies, or song titles) or works of art in English. For example, we would normally write A Tale of Two Cities and not A tale of two cities.

When to use sentence case

Organizations and publishers have different style guides which set the standards for writing and formatting texts, including headline capitalization. For example, the New York Times uses title case, while the Associated Press (AP) and the BBC use sentence case.

If you are writing a research paper or academic essay, it’s best to check if there is a style guide you need to follow. In APA style, for example, sentence case is the standard for titles of articles, books, reports, webpages, and other works in reference lists and bibliographies, even if title case is used in the original work. However, titles referenced within the main body of the text are written in title case.

Example: Sentence case and title case in APA style
Reference list: Sontag, S. (2008). On photography. Penguin Classics.

Main body of the text: In her series of essays entitled “On Photography,” Sontag (2008) examines photography and its position in contemporary culture.

On the other hand, if you are writing an article for your own blog or website, it’s entirely up to you to decide whether you want to use sentence case or not.

Sentence case examples

Here are a few examples of sentence case capitalization to help you understand the basic rules.

Example 1:
  • AI can be a force of good or ill in society.
  • Ai can be a force of good or ill in society.

“AI” is an abbreviation and needs to be capitalized.

Example 2:

  • In Darwin’s footsteps: sailing ship to retrace round-the-world voyage of the Beagle.
  • In darwin’s footsteps: Sailing ship to retrace round-the-world voyage of the beagle.

“Darwin” and “the Beagle” are proper nouns and need to be capitalized. The first letter after a colon is generally not capitalized, although some style guides may differ in the advice they offer.

Example 3: 

  • White House asks Congress for additional $24bn in aid.
  • White house asks congress for additional $24bn in aid.

In this sentence, “White House” and “Congress” are proper nouns and should be capitalized.

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Sentence case converter

If you want to proofread your text and make sure it has the right capitalization, there are a number of free online tools you can use. Keep in mind that although these are handy, they are not always correct.

Convertcase.net

To check your work, you can either type the text directly in the box or copy-paste it. Then choose “Sentence case” from the menu below the box and the converter automatically transforms the text. However, it won’t capitalize names or places. Once the text has been converted, you can download it or copy it to your clipboard.

Titlecaseconverter.com

This converter corrects or restores the capitalization of uncased or poorly capitalized text. It can help you correct text written in lowercase or all caps in different languages. Selecting the option “Highlight changes” allows you to keep track of any changes in the text (these are highlighted in orange).

Caseconverter.com

This is a simple and easy to navigate online converter. You type or copy-paste your text and then select one of the four options: “UPPER CASE,” “lower case,” “Proper Case,” and “Sentence case.” Once you select the “Sentence case” option, the text is converted. However, this tool only capitalizes the first letter of the sentence and not names of places or people.

Sentence case in Excel

Although Excel has functions for uppercase, lowercase, and proper case (to capitalize each word in a given string), it doesn’t have a specific function for sentence case. However, you can apply a sentence case function as a custom function.

Below is an example of mixed text with letters in both uppercase and lowercase in cell A1.

sentence case in excel

You can enter the following function in B1: =UPPER(LEFT(A1,1))&LOWER(RIGHT(A1,LEN(A1)-1))
sentence case in excel function

Note
This function changes the first letter of the first word to uppercase and all other letters to lowercase. This means that proper nouns are not automatically capitalized with this function.

Other interesting language articles

If you want to know more about nouns, pronouns, verbs, and other parts of speech, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations and examples.

Frequently asked questions about a sentence case

What is a sentence case example?

A sentence case example is the following headline: “New study reveals surprising effects of music on sleep patterns.”

In sentence case, the first word of the sentence is capitalized along with any proper nouns (names of people, places, etc.), while the rest of the words are in lowercase.

What is capitalization in grammar?

Capitalization is the practice of using uppercase or capital letters in writing to indicate the beginning of a sentence or to emphasize certain words or types of words within a sentence.

For example, capitalizing place names, family names, and days of the week are all standard in English. Different capitalization styles, like title case and sentence case, apply different rules when it comes to which letters to capitalize.

Cite this Scribbr article

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Nikolopoulou, K. (2023, September 03). What Is Sentence Case? | Explanation & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved June 18, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-writing/sentence-case/

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Kassiani Nikolopoulou

Kassiani has an academic background in Communication, Bioeconomy and Circular Economy. As a former journalist she enjoys turning complex scientific information into easily accessible articles to help students. She specializes in writing about research methods and research bias.