SO YOU’VE GOT A THING FOR ALL CAPS, DO YOU?


IN MY DAY-TO-DAY WORK AS A DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL I OFTEN ENCOUNTER A PHENOMENON I’M NOT COMPLETELY ABLE TO GRASP: THE USE OF ALL-CAPS TO WRITE EMAILS, DESIGN MARKETING MATERIALS, FILL-OUT FORMS AND ABOUT EVERYTHING ELSE.

WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL WE LEARNED LANGUAGE GRAMMAR, USAGE AND OF THE EXISTENCE OF STYLE MANUALS. WE KNEW, AT LEAST IN THEORY, “PROPER” CAPITALIZATION RULES. WE ALSO LEARNED THERE WERE NOTABLE EXCEPTIONS, LIKE THAT OF THE LOWERCASE LOVER, e e cummings.

BAD NETIQUETTE

TYPOGRAPHY PROFESSIONALS TELL US THAT ALL UPPER CASE TEXT IS HARD TO READ. BACK IN 1995 THE PRESTIGIOUS INTERNET ENGINEERING TASK FORCE (IETF) TOLD US THAT ALL UPPER CASE IS AKIN TO SHOUTING AND, AS SUCH, BAD NETIQUETTE.

SO WHY DO PEOPLE SO LOVE TO TYPE WITH THE CAPS LOCK KEY ON? IS IT A CULTURAL THING? UNLIKELY. PLENTY OF ITALIAN STYLE GUIDES ADMONISH READERS TO RESIST EXAGGERATING THEIR USE OF ALL-CAPS.

BLAME IT ON SEO?

LET’S GO OUT ON A LIMB: COULD IT HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH SEARCH ENGINE RANKING? SEARCH ENGINES CAN CONSIDER WORD CASE TO BETTER INTERPRET QUERY INTENT. FOR EXAMPLE, IN ENGLISH, RAM USUALLY REFERS TO RANDOM ACCESS MEMORY, ram MIGHT BE A MALE SHEEP AND Ram MIGHT BE THE NAME OF A BIBLICAL FIGURE OR A FIAT-CHRYSLER PICK-UP TRUCK. IN REALITY SEARCH ENGINES CANNOT USUALLY COUNT ON USERS TO PROVIDE CORRECT CASE SENSITIVE QUERY CLUES; GOOGLE CURRENTLY SAYS QUERY CASE DOESN’T MATTER. ON JUNE 19, 2009 GOOGLE’S JOHN MüLLER SAID, “WE COULD TAKE IT INTO ACCOUNT IF WE CAN PROVIDE THAT IS RELEVANT TO THE SEARCH“.

WE DO KNOW THAT WHEN ANALYZING TEXT GOOGLE IS ABLE TO JUDGE A TEXT’S INTELLECTUAL “READING LEVEL“. MIGHT GOOGLE “PENALIZE” CONTENT WRITTEN IN ALL UPPERCASE? THEY COULD, BUT I REALLY DOUBT IT WOULD BE A SIGNIFICANT FACTOR. TO HELP ME PROVE MY POINT, FEEL FREE TO LINK TO THIS ARTICLE! :-)

RECOMMENDATION: AVOID ALL UPPER CASE

FOR NOW I’M GOING TO CONTINUE TO TEACH MY DIGITAL MARKETING TRAINING STUDENTS THAT USING ALL UPPER CASE IN COMMUNICATION IS BAD FORM WHEN TYPOGRAPHY PROVIDES A RANGE OF BETTER CHOICES, INCLUDING BOLD, ITALICS AND COLOR TO MAKE A POINT. BUT PERHAPS I’M MISSING SOMETHING?


About Sean Carlos

Sean Carlos is a digital marketing consultant & teacher, assisting companies with their Search (SEO + SEA = SEM), Social Media & Digital Media Analytics strategies. Sean first worked with text indexing in 1990 in a project for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Since then he worked for Hewlett-Packard Consulting and later as IT Manager of a real estate website before founding Antezeta in 2006. Sean is an official instructor of the Digital Analytics Association and collaborates with the Bocconi University. He is Chairman of the SMX Search and Social Media Conference, 12 & 13 November in Milan. He is also a co-author of the Treccani encyclopedic dictionary of computer science, ICT & digital media. Born in Providence, RI, USA, Sean received Honors in Physics from Bates College, Maine. He speaks English, Italian and German.

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