Formatting Headings and Subheadings

Authors often use headings and subheadings to structure their argument. When used effectively, these signals can help guide readers through a long argument. SBLHS provides basic guidelines for formatting headings and subheadings (see also CMS 1.55–1.57). This post will expand those guidelines and provide examples.

1. Hierarchy

Since the ultimate goal of headings and subheadings is to increase reader comprehension, authors should take care to establish a clear and consistent hierarchy. Use a maximum of three levels; more can be confusing and overly complicated.

When possible, use parallel grammatical constructions.


Sight in the Bible

Speaking in the Bible

Touch in the Bible



Sight in the Bible

Speech in the Bible

Touch in the Bible


Seeing in the Bible

Speaking in the Bible

Touching in the Bible

The number of headings and subheadings can vary per chapter or article; however, when either are used, it is preferable to use at least two headings or subheadings per level.


Typology of Sight

Cognition Is Seeing

Knowledge Metaphors

Emotion Metaphors

Judgment Metaphors


If a chapter begins with an introductory paragraph, an initial heading (“Introduction”) is unnecessary.

2. Numbering

Although not all works need to number headings and subheadings, numbered headings and subheadings can be a helpful way to orient the reader, especially when a work includes cross-references.

3. Preparation for War

3.1. Communication with Enemy

3.1.1. Egyptian Practices

A few items to note:

  • It is preferable to include a descriptive title along with the numbered heading, as in 3.1. Communication with Enemy, rather than just 3.1.
  • The most common system of enumeration is multilevel. As CMS 1.57 explains:

In this system, sections are numbered within chapters, subsections within sections, and sub-subsections within subsections. The number of each division is preceded by the numbers of all higher divisions, and all division numbers are separated by periods, colons, or hyphens.

Thus, in the example above, the number 3.1 indicates that “Communication with Enemy” is the first section of chapter 3. In this system, the chapter is the first numbered level. For ease of cross-referencing, SBL recommends that one begin numbering chapters with the introductory chapter (i.e., 1. Introduction, 2. Casus Belli, 3. Preparation for War).

  • SBL recommends using only arabic numerals; we discourage the use of roman numerals or letters (3.1, not 3.A or III.A).
  • Although CMS permits periods, colons, or hyphens, SBL prefers to use a period + one space to separate the number from the descriptive title.

3. Capitalization

Unless an author is asked to prepare a printer-ready file, the final format for headings and subheadings is typically set by the publisher during typesetting. The author can assist the typesetting process by avoiding unusual formatting options such as all caps, small caps, bold, underlining, and italics. Instead, type all headings and subheadings roman font style (not italics) using uppercase and lowercase letters; do not use the “caps lock” key on your keyboard. Use standard title-case rules, regardless of how the heading or subheading will appear in the printed volume. That is, capitalize the first and last word of every heading or subheading as well as every word in between unless it is an article (a, an, the), a coordinating conjunction (and, but), or a preposition of any length (of, with, through, according). For more information, see our post on “Title Case.”

4. Length

Headings and subheadings should be concise, fitting, if possible, on one to two lines of printed text.


Producing Masculine Singular Nouns with the Second Masculine/Feminine Plural Suffixes (כם and כן) and the Masculine Plural Nouns with the Second Masculine/Feminine Plural and Third Person Masculine/Feminine Plural Suffixes (כן ,כם, and הן ,הם)


Producing Masculine Singular Nouns with כם and כן and the Masculine Plural Nouns with כן ,כם, and הן ,הם

Although some publishers abbreviate ancient texts in headings and subheadings, SBL Press prefers that the titles be given in full, unless doing so produces an unwieldy heading. References within parentheses may be abbreviated following the guidelines of SBLHS 8.2.

6. Punctuation

Avoid ending a heading or subheading with a period, comma, or colon.


Relationship between the Crown Prince and His Father.


Relationship between the Crown Prince and His Father

7. Footnotes

Avoid attaching footnote callouts to any headings or subheadings (CMS 14.27). When possible, move the footnote callout to end of the first sentence of the main text instead. Reword the footnote as necessary.


2. Advanced Agrarian Societies and Literacy7

Albertz correctly characterizes the socioeconomic status of postexilic Israel in the following manner …


2. Advanced Agrarian Societies and Literacy

Albertz correctly characterizes the socioeconomic status of postexilic Israel in the following manner …7


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