Capitalization of journal article titles in bibliographies

When I use the Zotero Word plugin to create a bibliography, the journal article titles are all lowercased (APA format), which is fine except for proper names in the titles. How do I indicate that some words should be kept capitalized when the bibliography is generated?
  • There is a ticket to deal with these kinds of issues but it is fairly complicated. See For the time being you will need to manually alter them after the bibliography is generated.
  • Hi guys, any progress on this issue?
  • kind of - APA style will just print whatever is in Zotero - for that reason it's a good idea to save titles in sentence case, i.e. with only the first letter and proper nouns capitalized (that will often mean changing them after automatic import).
    Styles that require title-case (i.e. all words except for articles and prepositions capitalized) can do that automatically. Because of proper nouns that's not possible the other way around.
  • Thanks, that makes sense. One suggestion for the developers would be maybe having a different interface that would facilitate editing large amounts of entries for capitalization. Maybe a cursor tool type of thing, where you see all your titles in a list and could just click on words to flip the capitalization. That would definitely streamline the editing process.

    Anyway, cool product, looking forward to the standalone version, and thanks again!
  • Sorry, one other question: would it be better (i.e., more flexible) to leave the first word after a colon capitalized, or to put that lowercase as well?

    Thank you!
  • That depends on how most sentence case styles want it. I tend to want the second part of the title to start with a capital letter, so I capitalize it. I´m not sure if there´s actually a rule on this.
  • APA 6th:
    "Capital letter also for subtitle"

    CMoS, 8.162 Subtitle capitalization:
    "A subtitle, whether in sentence-style or headline-style capitalization, always begins with a capital letter."
  • Thanks, Rintze!
  • edited October 22, 2010
    I'd also love to see a feature to help make converting title-case journal article titles to sentence case easier. (I use APA 6th). Many downloaded citations have article titles in title case, and manually editing them is quite a pain. I do use sometimes to make it quicker, but it's still a laborious process.

    If I remember rightly Endnote does have an option to automatically output titles as sentence case regardless of input, but obviously this is a bit dodgy given the possibility of proper nouns in the title etc.

    I'm not sure what specifically to suggest, though - would be interested to hear others' ideas, or possible workarounds that are quicker than manual editing of entries.
  • Zotero can output sentence case - we just don't tend to use it because, as you say, it's dodgy.
    If you right-click on a title in Zotero you can convert to lowercase - that means less work. It's planned to add a pseudo-sentence case option there, but no one has gotten to that yet.
    If you set the hidden Preferences CapitalizeTitles to false
    you'll get sentence case import from some sites - though you'll also get some in all caps
  • It would be awesome if someone would just change the lowercase option to leave the first letter of the title capitalized. I don't think there is any situation where the entire title would be required in lowercase, so everyone has to go back and switch the first letter to capital again.

    If it could go a step further and not lowercase any letter immediately following a colon or question mark as well (since they typically mark the transition from title to subtitle), that would also be a massive time saver.
  • as I said - that's been discussed and it's planned (that's what I mean by pseud-sentence case) - it's just that no one has gotten around to implement it yet.
  • This is probably asking a lot, but: would it be possible, if you guys are eventually going to add automatic case handling as a citation-style feature, to also add an option to mark up titles for what language they are in? Titlecasing is essentially done only in English (afaik). If you have a bibliography with mixed entries in multiple languages, non-English titles should never be affected by titlecasing. (And the word processor might like to have the language markup anyway, for other things such as spellchecking).
  • that's actually much more complicated, so probably not happening in the same step. Titlecasing is actually more complicated than "just in English" - in the MHRA style, for example, English titles are sentence cased and other languages like French are title cased
    it's a mess. It seems to be that eventually doing something with language is going to be necessary - that would probably be part of the item data - not just a mark-up of the title - there is at least one thread about this out there referring to sorting bibliographies by language (which is another frequent requirement) if you're interested in some of the discussion/concerns.
  • Thanks for the info Adam, very useful.
    f you set the hidden Preferences CapitalizeTitles to false
    you'll get sentence case import from some sites - though you'll also get some in all caps
    Interesting - I actually get sentence case imports reasonably often already. The import seems to come through with whatever capitalisation the site I'm accessing it from is using for the article, even though I've checked and have got CapitalizeTitles set to True.
  • that might depend on the way the specific translator works
  • There is a function in the translator toolkit that is used to capitalize titles -- it is used rather sparingly in actual translators, and the preference controls only the behavior of that function.

    Furthermore, translator authors can override the preference setting.
  • Adam: thanks for your quick reply above. Having checked the style guide you mentioned (, it does seem to me that it boils down more or less to an English-versus-everything-else situation after all: (a) most languages have no special titlecasing rules at all, so both citation styles and import filters should leave them alone; (b) French has titlecasing rules that are so fiendishly complex that no computer software could hope to manage them – they depend on non-trivial syntactic analysis of the text (how many initial words belong to an initial noun phrase; or according to MLA: which words are nouns), and on esthetics ("balance"), so citation styles might be better off leaving them alone anyway; (c) English is the only language where titlecasing is a relatively straightforward operation and where the same string regularly has to alternate between sentence-case and title-case representations.
    That said: great software, I'm beginning to love it; thanks for all your work.
  • For me MLA and MLA with URL styles are not Title Case-ing titles - it seems they are just outputting the title in whatever case it is in.

    I understand from adamsmith (see below), that Title Case-ing is working in some styles calling for it, but not all. MLA seems to be one where it is not working.

    (But, as I have mentioned before, Zotero is great. I use it extensively and introduce it to my students. This would make it better.)

    from adamsmith:
    Zotero can in fact change title capitalization in styles. This works almost perfectly from sentence case to title case, but has lots of problems in the other direction (and there is no viable solution for that - no way Zotero can distinguish proper nouns). The solution is to save all of your items with sentence case and then have them converted to title case by the respective style (this might not be implemented in all styles requiring title case - let us know when you find an instance where it's missing).
  • thanks - I've added title-casing to the MLA and the MLA with URL styles - this will show up in the repository soon (check for the date after the style) - though only in the dev section, not for the default MLA style on the top (which will follow eventually, but that often takes weeks or months).
  • adamsmith, thank you! installed the dev updates you did and the Title Casing appears to be working fine. -John
  • Just wanted to express support for the idea of adding "pseudo sentence" case to the Transform Text dropdown list (i.e., in addition to lower case and Title Case). Thanks.
  • to adamsmith - Back on Jan 19 2011 (see above) you fixed title-casing on MLA. Recently I needed to do a couple MLA bibliographies and found that while the MLA with URL is title-casing, the MLA is not now title-casing. This even shows up differently when you mouse over the regular and with URL MLA styles on

    I do know it was working end of Jan. Could you possibly fix this again? Thanks.
  • I'll have a look - the MLA style got a complete re-write and they might have taken title-casing out. As we have discovered, it's not without its problems, because it will currently also title case non-English titles (which should never be title cased). There is a solution for this in Zotero 3.0 (Zotero will not title case anything that has something different from "en" at the start of the language field) but that's not working in 2.1.10
  • Thanks for this fascinating conversation. I'm heading up a set of shared bibliographies in a higher education setting, and we want to establish certain rules that will make these biblios work for a number of output styles; do accomplish this, it sounds like we will title everything sentence (down) style, as titles can apparently be automatically set to headline (up) style in a given output style if needed.

    This seems quite significant with the most recent Chicago style (16th), which as I've just learned recommends that *all* titles be headline style, a big departure from several editions ago; see 16th edition section 15.13, Titles in reference list entries, which links to 8.155, Capitalization of titles of works—general principles. See also their examples at, all of which use headline-style capitalization in either notes-biblio or author-date formats.

    The current Zotero output styles for Chicago (including those shipped as default Zotero styles or in the style repository) don't seem to reflect the above, however. I manually edited the .csl file, and it was easy to insert text-case="title" for all instances of the title, container-title, and collection-title variables, so assuming my students use only Chicago notes-biblio or author-date I suppose we are set! (The comment above re. Zotero 3.0 checking for language prior to title-casing is well taken.) But I do worry a bit about promoting among students: are there other major output styles in use in the US that rely so heavily on headline-style capitalization?

    Many thanks,

  • As a quick update, the other two major styles my students use -- APA and MLA -- don't seem to be appropriately set for title casing; jmac62 seems to be correct, and I can't tell 100 percent with APA but the code I have suggests no use of setting text-case for variables title, container-title, and/or collection-title (with MLA it may be all of them, whereas with APA it would not include title, only container- or collection-title).

  • edited December 29, 2011
    yes - APA uses sentence case for titles, but we should probably title-case container titles.
    edit: I'll also double check that we're doing this right in all CMoS styles.

    And yes, your conclusion is exactly right - promote entering items in sentence case among students and they'll be fine in 99% of all cases.
  • Thank you! I sure appreciate your looking into style tweaks, and will convey sentence case as preferred to our students.


  • OK - title case is back for MLA and included in all versions of CMoS.
    I didn't change anything for APA: Book titles (even where they are containers) are sentence case in APA as well. Journal titles are title cased, but they really should be saved in title case since they are proper names - using the title case option could create all types of issues for journals with foreign names that I'd like to avoid.
  • Yes, that makes sense...I initially retitled journal names sentence case and it just looked plain weird so I put them back to title case.

    Thank you!

    Jim P.
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