THIS DOES NOT WORK. I’m sorry to yell, but I’m just trying to make a point.
No matter what form of content you work with — using all caps is not the way to deliver your message.
The use of all caps seems most prominent on social media comments as people scream to get their point across.
But all caps show up in other forms of content such as emails and even contracts.
The point is, whether you’re a content creator — or a social media troll — all caps are not the way to be heard.
If you’re trying to stand out with your message, how do you make sure you get it across effectively?
If you have an important email to send, surely it makes sense to use some all caps, so it's not ignored?
Let’s look into why all caps are not an effective way to deliver a message and why big brands are avoiding them.
Why Do People Use All Caps?
Besides the trolling aspect, all caps seem like the best way to emphasize a point.
This is the same thinking employed by big companies and corporations.
If you’ve ever had to sign a contract, you’ve probably noticed entire sections written in all caps.
The thought is the use of all caps improves readability and perception.
This isn’t just in physical contracts but in many of the Terms and Conditions you see when you sign up for something online.
I assume you breeze right through these — I know I do. But big paragraphs of all caps are meant to get your attention to the most important parts of the user agreements.
They clearly don’t work, and there are a few reasons why.
Researchers Yonathan Arbel and Andrew Toler from the University of Alabama School of Law looked into this.
With legal texts, there is a practical failure when using all caps.
The researchers have found no evidence that all caps improve readability over normal text.
In the case of older people, all caps can actually make it harder to read and comprehend.
Did Using All Caps Ever Serve a Purpose?
Before typed text became more widely used, all caps may have been an important tool when handwriting something.
A letter or contract that was written in cursive could be broken up by writing in capital or block letters.
This was important for government documents where specific instructions needed to stand out.
All caps have also been important for conveying emotion, and that still exists today. When combined with the right punctuation, all caps can appear joyous — if used sparingly.
In studies conducted by, Gretchen McCulloch, “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!!!” appeared happier to the participants than “it’s my birthday!!!”
And both looked better than “IT IS YOUR BIRTHDAY.” — that’s just for The Office fans out there.
All caps only seem to work for something exciting or happy. In the same study, participants didn’t see “I MISS U” as any sadder than “I miss u.”
I’m not getting any “I miss u” texts so I can’t relay which I find sadder — and that’s sad enough on its own.
McCulloch has done some interesting work regarding our digital forms of communication.
She doesn’t see all hope lost despite it seeming like our language is devolving into acronyms and GIFs.
She says that we are adjusting the way we speak online based on who we communicate with.
When one person uses more punctuation or emojis, it’s natural to respond with the same. Things like all caps exist as expressive tools.
Along with excessive exclamation or letter repetition — e.g. “heyyyyy” — they have found their way into informal writing to give more context to what we’re saying.
A few decades ago, you couldn’t really relay your tone in written communication. Today, it’s easy to show that you’re being playful or joking.
Why Are All Caps More Difficult To Understand?
Some of that research suggests that when we read, we rely on the shape of a word to help identify it.
Words that are written in lower case have more specific and unique shapes to them. This makes them easier to tell apart.
When you use all caps, there is no variation among the letters. They are all the same size, height, depth and they tend to blend together instead of being distinguishable.
It’s the reason this is easier to read THAN THIS BEING EASIER TO READ.
All caps can be a challenge for us to understand because we just aren’t accustomed to reading that way.
We have spent all our lives with regular sentence case and anything beyond that seems foreign to us.
Our new internet age — with everything being shouted in all caps — has come across as unfamiliar and jarring.
I don’t remember “Goodnight Moon” being screamed at me in all caps.
By writing in regular sentence case, you make your message much easier to get across. It is familiar and more pleasing to the eye.
Regular sentence case is what we know and feel comfortable with.
IF YOU WANT TO MAKE SOMEONE KNOW, LIKE, AND TRUST YOU — THIS IS NOT THE WAY TO DO IT.
That also goes for the people who put “URGENT!” on any of their emails.
The Brand Switch To Lower Case
Many big companies have embraced our love of regular sentence case to use in their logos.
Not only do all capitals repel people, but even capitalizing the first letter has the same effect.
The idea is that logos in lower case exude an approachable and casual vibe.
The switch to full lower case is allowing these big corporations to connect easier to their target market.
If you are in any form of marketing, advertising, or promotions, this is another huge reason to avoid using anything with all caps.
Facebook, Amazon, Intel, Vitamin Water, Citibank, Xerox, and even Macy’s — among many others — are all now using full lower case for their logos.
It may not seem grammatically correct, but these enormous companies don’t want to leave anything to chance.
They want to create an approachable persona and avoiding capitalization does that — even if it means enraging English teachers everywhere.
All caps are not going away anytime soon.
Despite the studies that show they don’t work, legal documents are still going to use them.
If they want to make their contracts more effective, they should start sprinkling some emojis in there.
If you are going through Terms and Conditions or signing a contract, it’s probably worth paying some attention to those all-cap sections.
Even though we dismiss them, they are clearly trying to relay some important information.
For the rest of the internet, I don’t imagine people screaming in all caps on social media will fade away.
If they spent less time trolling, and more time reading, they would know there is a better way to curse someone out.
So if you have a message to deliver through marketing, advertising, posts, or emails, stick with a regular sentence structure to better connect with people, and get your message across.