Guidelines on capitalization in Audacity dialogs and messages

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Peter 10Jun16: This page is a set of draft guidelines for when and where to use capitalization in the Audacity GUI.

The initial guidelines are taken from the Microsoft guidelines - we can all comment here on what if anything we want to change.

I'm deliberately using note divs rather than ednote divs as some non-editors may well be reading and wanting to comment on the content of this page - and they should be able to see all the notes.
Work in Progress...

Correct capitalization helps readers identify important words and breaks in text. Two styles of capitalization appear in user interfaces:
  • title caps (also referred to as book title capitalization) and
  • sentence caps (also known as sentence-style capitalization).
There is a Quick Reference image to illustrate the guidelines.


  • Gale +1 to adopt these guidelines with the exception that "Web and Web-like page titles" and "Tooltips" (we don't distinguish these from Infotips) should use sentence capitalization. Using sentence caps for tooltips makes it easier for Status Bar text (which MS suggests should use sentence caps) to be identical with tooltip text. However many tooltips will automatically have the same title caps as the menu item they refer to, and that should be one of our rules.
    • Peter: OK, I moved "Web and Web-like page titles" and "Tooltips" to Sentecnce Capitalization
  • Gale +1 for where we use title caps, always capitalize the first and last word. Apple does this too so we would be out of step if we did not.
    • Peter: OK, I struck-out my objection
  • Peter: @Gale - what do you think about removing "File names" from these guidelines as we are wildly inconsistent - and I don't see us fixing such inconsistencies either in the app or its distribution packages ;-)

Title Caps

Peter 10Jun16: Vaughan wrote in a related email thread: "Fwiw, I was schooled in Apple's HIG, where every dialog heading is considered more or less like a book chapter title, so all nouns and verbs capitalized."

Capitalize the first letter of the first and last words. Capitalize the first letter of all words in between, with the exception of articles (a, an, and the); coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or, so, and yet); and prepositions of four letters or fewer (at, for, with, into, etc.).

Use title caps for:

  • Menu names and menu commands
  • Button names
  • Toolbars and toolbar button labels
  • Title bar text (for dialog boxes)
  • Column headings
  • Command button labels
  • Floating toolbars
If file names are included in elements that use title caps, the file name should be capitalised exactly as it is. So the title bar of the dialogue to browse for Lame correctly says "Where is lame_enc.dll?" and does not capitalize any part of the file name.


  • Web and Web-like navigational elements (unless prohibited by the page design)
  • Tab titles
  • Palette titles
  • Icon labels
Peter 11Jun16: from this list I don't think that in Audacity we have: Palette titles, Tabs or Tab titles, or Icon labels - we may get Palette stuff later if and when we reintroduce theming or color choices for track name display on the waveform.
  • We do have a few web/web-like things in Audacity but these are restricted to links to our Manual and our Website.
  • Although we can float our toolbars none of them carries any direct text so maybe we can omit this.
  • I really don't agree with Microsoft here regarding ToolTips, I really think these should be in Sentence Caps - and that is what we seem to do in Audacity anyway. Gale agreed - so I moved it (doers decide ... )
  • I strongly query Microsoft's advice to always capitalize the first letter of the last word.


  • Rescan Audio Devices
  • Bass and Treble
  • Check for Updates
  • Regular Interval Labels

Sentence Caps

Capitalize only the first letter of the first word, and capitalize only those other words that are normally capitalized in sentences, such as proper nouns. Proper nouns include explicit Audacity entities such as Track Control Panel, Transport ToolBar, Scrub Bar, etc. Although these text strings may form complete sentences they are never terminated with a period (full-stop) in the Audacity GUI.

Use sentence caps for:

  • Check box labels
  • Text box labels
  • Option (radio) button labels
  • Tooltips
    • Note: Where the tooltip is a button that operates a menu item, the tooltip should use the title caps of the menu item. For example if we wanted to be verbose the Trim button tooltip could say "Trim Audio - keep only the selected audio".
  • Infotips - An Infotip just seems to be a tooltip with a longer description, according to
Gale 11Jun16: Should infotips that are a sentence end with a period? The Selection Toolbar tooltips are inconsistent about this. Hover title text in the Manual is not closed with a period unless there are two sentences, because there is a (weak) consensus this looks better.
  • Status bar tips and messages
  • Messages
  • Dialog box introductory or explanatory text
  • List box entries
  • List box labels
  • Group box labels
  • Web and Web-like page titles


  • Alternate text (ALT text) used to describe images
Peter 11Jun16: In Audacity I don't think we have ALT text to describe images. Note that we currently do not observe these Microsoft guidelines in regard to the filenames that we generate in Audacity for things like configuration files or AutoSave filenames - nor in our files for Audacity releases - so maybe we should omit the File names entry.
  • Gale 11Jun16: I added a note about not captializing file names in elements that take title caps. I think "File name" above this note could be removed, yes.
    • Peter: Done - removed it


  • Retain labels if selection snaps to a label edge
  • Click and drag to select audio
  • Ergonomic order of Transport Toolbar buttons

Quick Reference

This at-a-glance reference demonstrates when and where to capitalize in the UI.

Capitalization guidelines.gif

See also