Transformation of title case

Depending on the source of the metadata, titles can come in a range of cases. Sometimes the title is in ALL CAPS for example. Although the output style may help with this to some extent, it doesn’t always help proper nouns in a title case scenario. Other reference managers have a transformation option to:

  • make lower case
  • Make title case

This would be a useful feature in Paperpile. Proper nouns may need some adjusting, but it helps not having to type out the whole title again.


Thanks, that’s actually something on our internal feature list already. We have quite a few ideas how to improve data entry and improve the meta-data editor.

I wonder, do you know which reference manager has this feature and how it’s solved there? We were mainly thinking about turning ALL UPPERCASE to lower case in a semi-automatical way (i.e. show a button “Make title lowercase” somewhere when we detect an all uppercase title). That would give the user a simple way to fix the title and manually adjust (it’s not always possible to do this automatically).

Sente and EndNote both do it with a right click on highlighted text and give the three options I mentioned. Highlighted text is nice as the user can leave proper nouns unaffected depending on where they are in the title. Glad it’s on the radar.

My bibliography is a mix of title case and sentence case. How should I fix it? Should I edit the Paperpile reference for each one and then reformat?


Just to make sure we are on the same page here. You are talking about the view of your library items in the Paperpile App ( and not a bibliography generated in Google Docs. Because for generating a bibliography in Google Docs all items will be correctly formatted according to the citation style preferences irrespective if the are in “title case” or “sentence case” in your Paperpile library.

Thanks for the clarification. No, I was in fact referring to the bibliography in Google Docs. I don’t care about the view of my library items in the Paperpile App. I have tried it with several CSL styles, including harvard1.csl, and my bibliography still contains several journal articles with titles in title case. I determined that the bibliography is reproducing the capitalization that is present in the Paperpile App citation format (I tried making one word lowercase, and that word was also not title case in the GDocs bibliography).

To my knowledge, the casing of journal articles are not changed by the citation style. It just shows what you have in Paperpile. We normalize the journal names using the official names and abbreviations. We have around 30,000 journal titles in our database but it does not cover everything of course. So if you have journals that have wrong casing, you need to fix it in Paperpile. Also please be aware, that some styles use the abbreviated journal name and some use the non-abbreviated. Those can have different casing.

That’s how I understand it. Unfortunately @andreas is offline for the next days so I thought I give you my opinion even though I might be wrong.

I see, thanks for the update. If the case for the titles of journal articles is not changed by CSL, then the titles themselves must be corrected. This means that the issue @Kelapa brought up is important not just for viewing in the Paperpile App, but also for the Google Docs bibliography. I’ll go ahead and fix the reference titles in the app. Selecting all the articles and performing an auto-update via the “More actions…” button usually fixes the problem, but I suspect it depends on the source of the metadata. Thanks again.

The best solution for this scenario is to edit the citation style file (CSL file). For some citation styles it is already implemented like for “Chicago Manual of Style 16th edition”, where all titles are transformed to title case automatically.
If your chosen citation style does not support this, here is how to fix it demonstrated on code from the harvard1.csl file.
You need to find the macro that formats the title, usually named macro name=“title”. Next you need to find the lines that format the title (text variable=“title” …) and add text-case=“title” for title casing. See this code snippet here:

<macro name="title">
    <if type="bill book graphic legal_case legislation motion_picture report song thesis" match="any">
      <text variable="title" font-style="italic" text-case="title"/>
      <text variable="title" text-case="title"/>

You can then upload the CSL file as a custom CSL file to Paperpile.

If you want all your titles to be in sentence case there is no other way than to do this manually in Paperpile, because there is no automated way to determine which capitalized words in a title are proper nouns or abbreviations without a huge lookup table.

I have installed the Doc Tools add-on which does this within a Google Doc. I wonder if their method could be applied in PaperPile. I’m no programer…

For those of us who will live our whole life in APA, getting titles into sentence-case is a drag. I understand the difficulty, but it’s a particularly slow process in Paperpile to do this manually. Zotero’s approach to this would be good enough. Slightly better would be a global option to force sentence-case on new reference creation. Then I’d occasionally have a few proper nouns to manually correct rather than every word of every title. (and if I ever need a title-case bib, CLS can reliably convert in that direction.)

Thanks for considering us APAers. Paperpile is great!

Because citation styles differ in their casing requirements, and because automatic conversion of sentence case to title case is much more accurate than the other way around, we recommend that you store titles in your Zotero library in sentence case. Zotero can then reliably convert titles to Title Case in rendered bibliographies when the chosen citation style calls for it.

To help with changing the case of titles, the title fields (e.g., “Title”, “Publication”, “Series Title”, “Short Title” for the “Journal Article” item type) can be right-clicked. This shows the “Transform Text” menu, with options to convert the title to either “Title Case” or “Sentence case”. Zotero does not recognize proper nouns, and transformed titles should always be checked for capitalization errors.


I’m wondering whether there is any chance of making progress on this issue? I think that either adding a “change case” button for the title field (as mentioned by Stefan at the top of this thread), or to transform all paper titles into sentence case on import (as requested by Brady) would be good solutions.

I find that I have to manually adjust the casing in the titles for the majority of papers that I add to Paperpile, which is quite time consuming. I understand that either of the proposed solutions would still require me to adjust the casing of proper nouns in article titles - but that would be a big improvement on the current situation.


A time-saving workaround I’ve found for this is with the Google Scholar button (a Chrome extension that must first be installed). See image and steps below.

  • In Paperpile, while editing a reference that has an incorrectly-cased title, highlight the title text then tap the Google Scholar button in Chrome.
  • Most of the time, the same reference will be found in Google Scholar. Tap the quote button in Google Scholar’s search results to show its full citation in a variety of styles. The title capitalization in Google Scholar will oftentimes be correct. If so, then it’s a simple copy and paste.
  • Highlight the title in Google Scholar and copy it (ctrl+c)
  • Tap escape to close the Google Scholar menu and return to your Paperpile entry (the title text should still be highlighted so you don’t have to select it again)
  • Paste (ctrl+v)

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Another possibility is to use the Change Case Chrome extension ( It creates a right-click menu that allows a host of transformations and you can create keyboard shortcuts. It seems to work pretty well.


Even better! Thanks Niklas!!

The title case is related to the other problem of getting italics in the titles right.

A good solution would have the following features, IMO:

  1. At the time of import, the title case should try to import the title with important words capitalized, with italicized words in italics, and otherwise in sentence case.
  2. There should be a way of fixing words that should be italicized / capitalized but that weren’t on import (something simple like markdown).
  3. Since books and journal articles have different conventions for being cited, depending on the style, and since sometimes the import doesn’t get it right, there should be a button to toggle the conversion from one to the other.
  4. At the time of citation, unimportant words for journal articles may need to be capitalized to suit the citation style.
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Bumping this as I still think it makes sense to be able to reformat paper titles from all caps to proper case etc. in the app somehow instead of relying on an extension. I like @David_Smith’s suggestions and echo the sentiments from @Rob and @Brady.

Thank you for adding your +1 for reformatting the case of reference titles, @SergeiWallace. This feature is part of the new Edit dialog in the new Paperpile web app, in beta.

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