I am always confused with should I capitalize something or not. Take the talk by Jeremy Avigad for instance, on page 8, he uses "Formal methods" and "Interactive theorem proving", but not capitalization for "verified proof" and "formal search."

My understanding is that we should capitalize the first letter of the items which are sentences. If the item is just a short word, we should not capitalize it. However, my minds fail here. Could anyone give me some help with better rules about when to use capitalization? I always cannot decide on capitalization for presentation. For example, if I write something in a textbox of PowerPoint, should I capitalize the first letter?


3 Answers 3


The only real rule is to be consistent throughout the presentation.

Academics are generally pretty bad about following even this, so you will find lots of counter-examples, even from prominent researchers. The presentation you linked actually seems pretty good in this regard:

  • Most of the text is written in sentences, with periods at the end and normal sentence capitalization (first word + proper nouns). This is unusual for a presentation, but it's perfectly fine.
  • Some of these sentences have line breaks and bullets inserted, but the capitalization is not affected.
  • Some of the bulleted lists are lists of fragments (not sentences); these fragments have no periods and the first letter is not capitalized.

But even in this presentation, there are a few minor inconsistencies:

  • You mention slide 8. I think this one is arguable; the "squiggly bullets" at the bottom are in a different format than the regular bullets at the top; using different capitalization schemes for these different types of bullets is defensible. Using a different capitalization scheme for the outline or prologue is similarly something I would not second-guess, even if it's not my preference.
  • Perhaps the bullets on slide 30 are a clearer example of a mistake. Elsewhere (e.g., page 23) the author does not capitalize the first word of list entries that are not sentences, but here he does.
  • 2
    Well, another rule, probably, is not to use ALL CAPS. But, yes, the example given seems a bit sloppy.
    – Buffy
    Sep 5, 2021 at 20:23
  • 8
    Bullet lists are tricky to get right. It's often desirable to: // • keep items short // • minimise punctuation // • make items fragments continuing the sentence introducing them // • But sometimes, a related point fit the same way. // • It may even be a full sentence. // • Should we then continue the list, or what should we do? // • Points that need question marks don't help either. OK, a little contrived, to squeeze into a comment, but hopefully self-explanatory
    – Chris H
    Sep 6, 2021 at 8:56

This is virtually always completely up to you unless you've been given specific rules or a style guide by your institution or the venue. But the trend seems to be toward less capitalization generally. Consider, for example, the style on Wikipedia, where only the first word of a title is capitalized.


Jeremy Avigad seems to have got it right; his choices might well seem questionable from the perspective that there is something special about presentations, as compared to any other kind of text, but there is not.

Unless there are house rules then broadly in any text, the exceptions to normal rules about capitalisation are titles and lists.

Titles should have the same place in presentations as in books, magazines or newspapers: eg, each page or slide might have a headline.

Lists are different.

If the list is seen as text run-on without abnormal punctuation, made special only by its spacing, it should have normal capitals… broadly, none. Broadly, that applies when the items are separated by line spaces that would otherwise have been commas or semi-colons.

If the list is seen as a collection of separate items, each item should be treated a separate sentence, with normal capitalisation.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .