Headings and Subheadings

Headings establish the organization of the manuscript. There are two types of headings in any manuscript: main headings and subheadings.

Main Headings
Main headings always begin on a new page, are centered, printed in all capital letters, and used for chapters or titled sections (CHAPTER 1, INTRODUCTION), the titles of the preliminary divisions of the paper (ABSTRACT, TABLE OF CONTENTS, LISTS, ACKNOWLEDGMENTS), and other titled sections of the paper (APPENDIX, REFERENCES).


Main headings always begin a new page of text and are placed 2 inches down from the top of the page. If the main heading is preceded by the word “CHAPTER” and its numerical designation, the word “CHAPTER” and the Roman or Arabic numeral following it begin 2 inches from the top of the page. After a heading space, the title of the chapter follows. The text begins after a heading space if no subheadings are used. If a subheading follows the main heading, the text begins after a double space.

Main headings are always followed by a heading space. Main headings of two or more lines are always double spaced.

Main headings over 4 1/2 inches in length are split and placed on two or more lines with the first line the longest and subsequent lines successively shorter (inverted pyramid form).



Subheadings are used for divisions of the various chapters or titled sections of the manuscript. Subheadings must be used in the same order, levels cannot be skipped (for example, a first-level subheading may not be followed immediately by a third-level subheading), and must be used consistently throughout the manuscript. Many students use no more than one or two levels of subheadings. Some, however, require additional levels.

Unlike main headings, subheadings are not printed in all capital letters. Either a headline style (the first letter of major words capitalized) or sentence style (the first letter of the first word capitalized) capitalization scheme is used for subheadings. Although capitalization schemes may vary across subheading levels, within each level, capitalization schemes must be consistent (for example, all first-level subheadings could be headline style while all second-level subheadings are sentence style).

Additionally, lower-level subheadings must appear visually subordinate to higher levels. Two different subheading levels may not be emphasized identically. This can be accomplished visually by emphasizing the subheading differently and by changing the location of the subheading (see Table 2.2). Types of emphasis may be combined (i.e., a heading that is bold and underlined is superior to one that is just bold).

In order for a freestanding subheading to end the page, there must be room for the heading space preceding it and at least two lines of text following it. If there is not enough room, the subheading moves to the top of the next page. This is the one of the only times a gap in the text is allowed when it is not the end of a chapter.

Freestanding subheadings (i.e., all subheadings except paragraph subheadings) are preceded by a heading space and followed by a double space. The spacing above a freestanding subhead is the same as below a main heading. Two or more freestanding subheadings in a row are separated by a double space. Paragraph subheadings are preceded by a double space only. (See Appendix A for a comparison of spacing requirements.) Subheadings on two or more lines may have no extra space or a double space between the lines but the spacing must be consistent throughout the manuscript.

Table 2.2: Subheading subordination.

Level of Subordination Text Emphasis Subheading Location
Higher Level





Lower Level

  • Bold
  • Underlined
  • Normal (no emphasis)
  • Italics
  • Centered
  • Left margin
  • Paragraph Level




Freestanding subheadings over 4 1/2 inches in length are split and placed on two or more lines with the first line the longest and subsequent lines successively shorter (inverted pyramid form). For subheadings placed at the left margin, any subsequent lines are also left justified.

Paragraph subheading
No heading space precedes the paragraph subheading because it is not freestanding. A paragraph subheading is indented the same size space as other paragraphs in the manuscript. Only the first letter of the first word of the paragraph subheading is capitalized. The paragraph subheading is followed by a period and two spaces, with the text commencing on the same line. A paragraph subheading is underlined or placed in bold print or italics.

It is not necessary to use every level of subheading in every titled section or chapter; however, a subheading level must appear in the same form whenever it is used, and subheadings always must be used in the same order, that is, levels cannot be skipped (for example, a first-level subheading may not be followed by a third-level subheading). The student should first determine the maximum number of subheadings required to establish the pattern of subheadings. Chapters or titled sections with fewer than the maximum number of levels use the early levels of the chosen subheading scheme in the same order as other chapter or titled sections.

In some disciplines, subheadings are numbered with a local decimal numbering system. If this system is used, chapters or titled sections must be numbered with Arabic numerals. The first-level subheading is then numbered 1.1 followed by the title, the second level is 1.1.1, and so on. If this system is used, all chapters/titled sections and all levels of subheadings must be numbered.