Zotero, Word, and subtitles…

While I wish that were the beginning of a good joke, it’s just the literal meaning of today’s post.  I often receive great feedback from Zotero users about how easily it captures references and full-text articles.  However, the less-than-enthusiastic feedback often has to do with its abilities to generate citations.

citation needed

Image by Dan4th Nicholas. CC license here.

In all fairness, no tool that generates citations automatically seems to get it right 100% of the time, so it’s important to take an editing eye to any quickly generated citation or bibliography.

That said, there are a couple tips which you can employ while collecting references which will reduce the time you spend editing the bibliographies you have Zotero auto-generate in your word processor.

Transform Text

You may have noticed that Zotero sometimes grabs references in ‘Title Case’, meaning that the first letter of every word in the title is capitalized.  While this works for some styles, APA style only capitalizes: the first letter of the first word, the first letter of the first word following a colon, and (of course) proper nouns.  What to do?

Luckily, there’s an easy fix to this quandary.

Step 1: Open your Zotero library.

Step 2: Identify an article title which is not in line with APA convention.

Step 3: In the ‘Info’ section of your Zotero library, right-click on the ‘Title’ field.  This will reveal a small gray box labeled ‘Transform Text’:


Step 4: Hover over ‘Transform Text’ to reveal a sub-menu which offers these two options: Title Case or Sentence Case:


Step 5: Select ‘Sentence case’ and Zotero will automatically change the title so that only the first letter of the first word is capitalized:


Optional, Step 6: If a subtitle is present, the first letter of the first word in the subtitle must also be capitalized. You can simply double-click the ‘Title’ field to manually capitalize this letter:


Download a Plug-In to do some work for you

Although Zotero does not currently have a fix in place to automatically capitalize the letter after a colon, you can download a plug-in created by a 3rd party that will help perform this function automatically in your word processor.

Step 1: Click here to open the list of Zotero’s Word Processor plug-ins in a new window.

Step 2: From that list, select the one labeled ‘Zotero Uppercase Subtitles’ as shown here:


Click image to enlarge.

Step 3: Following that link will take you to the developer’s site.  On this new page, select ‘Propachi Upper’ and follow the instructions to download/enable the plug-in for Zotero:


Now you’re cookin’!  While those are the only steps involved in downloading the plug-in, you do need some additional information to ensure that it works properly.

Important Information re the plug-in:

In order for this plug-in to work properly, the ‘Title’ field AND the ‘Short Title’ field located in the ‘Info’ section of your Zotero library must contain information.  The ‘Title’ field should contain the complete title of the work including the subtitle.  The ‘Short Title’ field should contain the section of the title which appears before the colon:


In case you’re starting to panic, I found that many of my Zotero entries were automatically filled in this way, so my hope is that you will not have to labor over each record.  However, I have learned that it is essential these fields be filled out properly for this plug-in to do its job.

Remember, this plug-in is for your word processor.  While you will not see automatic changes take effect to the record within your Zotero library, when you use Zotero to generate a citation for the work in Word it will be formatted properly:


While not everyone may want to deal with the plug-in, I suspect it will be incredibly useful for articles/dissertations in which you cite a high quantity of references. At the very least, it’s another tool to be aware of and a potential way to reduce editing time after you’ve generated your bibliography.

Zotero Forums to the rescue

For inquiring minds, one of Zotero’s greatest resources is its ‘Forums’ page: https://forums.zotero.org/categories/.  Not only can you often find an answer to your question posted here, but Zotero users can also post questions to be answered by Zotero experts.  Even your librarian had to seek out help while learning to use the subtitle plug-in:


Happy searching, saving, and citing!

**Disclaimer: I cannot claim to be a Zotero expert, though I am an enthusiast! If you’ve discovered other tips or tricks please share them in the comments section so we can all benefit!

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