On a recent review of an academic paper, a reviewer has pointed out that we sometimes use lower case letter at the start of expressions, and that we should check our tables in particular. True enough, I normally start a table row with a lower case letter, as I think this looks better.

An example of how I would use lower case letters in a table, the version I like better:

shape length [mm] width [mm]
rectangle 5 10
square 10 10

What I think the reviewer would like the table to look like:

Shape Length [mm] Width [mm]
Rectangle 5 10
Square 10 10

Is there a convention for (academic) formatting for tables concerning the use of upper or lower case letters? I tried to find an answer elsewhere but was not successful. I am also not a native speaker, so please excuse if this is blatantly obvious for people who are.

  • 2
    What is the usual practice in the journals you (aspire to) publish your papers in? What style guidelines do the editors of those journals offer? It's no use us telling you to use one thing if that puts you out of step with your peers. Commented Sep 21, 2022 at 6:11
  • Are you following a specific style guide (APA, Chicago, MHRA, etc)? Have you looked in it? If it's not covered in your style guide, you should probably listen to your reviewer unless you have a good reason. Publications like to have consistency across their articles, even if you personally want to format your work differently.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 16:46

2 Answers 2


APA uses sentence case for both row and column headings. See their examples. For example, one table has the stub heading "Baseline characteristic" (that's the heading in the top left corner), a column heading of "Guided self-help", and a row heading of "High school/some college".

In other words, your second table follows APA in terms of capitalization.


Capitalized letters at the beginning of the words for sure.

We can test this ourselves. Just focus on the two tables you have entered in this post for 5-10 seconds, you will find your eyes going down the table with capitalized headings.

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