There are two types of headings—a run-in heading and a freestanding heading. A run-in heading is one where the substance of the paragraph starts immediately after the heading. Run-in headings are usually set off by bold font and/or underlining. A freestanding heading is one which is on a line by itself, sometimes as part of an outline in a document.
A run-in heading will always be followed by a form of punctuation depending on the type of heading. If the heading is a question, it will end in a question mark. However, in a freestanding heading, use no punctuation unless you need to use a question mark or an exclamation point because the heading demands it.
As for capitalization, under the Gregg Reference Manual rules, you should capitalize all words in the heading over four letters and capitalize all words in the heading under four letters EXCEPT:
Of course, as in all things grammar, there are exceptions to that rule. If a word on the “don’t capitalize” list begins or ends the sentence, it should be capitalized. If a word on that list comes after a dash or a colon, it should be capitalized. Capitalize short prepositions like up, in, on, and for when they are used with prepositions having four or more letters.
Rafting Up and Down the Colorado River
Driving In and Around the City
New Store Opening On or About March 1
I have printed this list of words that should not be capitalized except in special circumstances and taped it to my work computer so that it is easier for me to remember. I honestly think titles look better with each word capitalized, but who am I to argue with Gregg? If that is the rule and my attorneys do not have a problem with formatting headings “by the book,” then I will adjust. But are there different rules under the BlueBook? Hmmm. We will check that out the next time.
Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, has been a member of NALS for over 30 years, is the current President of NALS of Phoenix, and is the Vice Chair of the NALS Editorial Board. Kathy has a blog on proofreading tips at http://proofthatblog.com. If you have specific grammar issues you would like covered in future issues, please send them to Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org.