In the current digital era, online communication has become essential in our daily lives, whether through emails, social media, forums, or blogs. However, a common and problematic practice in online writing is the incorrect use of capital letters, especially when writing complete words or phrases in sustained uppercase letters (the famous Caps Lock).
Proper capitalization is crucial for maintaining clear and respectful online communication, as it not only affects the readability and comprehension of messages but also the perception and emotional interpretation of readers.
In this article, we will explore the reasons why writing everything in uppercase can be problematic and provide tips for using capital letters appropriately and effectively in online communication.
Why shouldn’t you write everything in uppercase?
Each user has the right to use the Internet as they see fit, just as a person has the freedom to interact in society as they please, politely or impolitely. The way one interacts will also determine their acceptance or rejection in different social circles. With this article, we aim to inform you about the negative consequences of excessive use of CAPITAL LETTERS. Writing everything in uppercase is a way for some people to stand out or get noticed, but when it comes to the Internet, we must be careful.
Difficulty of Reading
Sustained uppercase letters are not used in printed materials (newspapers, books, posters, etc.). Have you ever seen a book written entirely in capital letters? A newspaper or a magazine with an entire article in uppercase? This is because it creates reading difficulties.
Uppercase letters are inherently less readable than lowercase letters, as lowercase letters have more variation in shape, making them easier to recognize and process by our brains. By presenting complete words or phrases in uppercase, we decrease reading speed and text comprehension, which can lead to visual and mental fatigue for readers.
The excessive use of capital letters affects the visual structure of the text, making it difficult to quickly identify keywords and grasp essential information. Instead of highlighting important points, constant capitalization can have the opposite effect, overwhelming readers and discouraging them from continuing to read. Imagine reading a paragraph like this:
IN THE CLASSICAL ERA, EVERYTHING WAS WRITTEN IN UPPERCASE. AND THAT WAS UNTIL THE MINUSCULE WAS INVENTED DURING THE TIME OF CHARLEMAGNE BASED ON THE CAROLINE LETTER. AT THAT MOMENT, THEY SOUGHT A MORE READABLE AND WRITABLE ALPHABET. DOING IT IN LOWERCASE WAS A SOLUTION.
In the classical era, everything was written in uppercase. And that was until the minuscule was invented during the time of Charlemagne based on the Caroline letter. At that moment, they sought a more readable and writable alphabet. Doing it in lowercase was a solution.
Which one did you find easier and quicker to read?
Why is writing in uppercase considered offensive?
In the language of the Internet, writing in SUSTAINED UPPERCASE is understood as shouting to get attention. Like any rule, this has not been established by an individual or a group but develops through the common sense of users and the actual use of language. That’s how more than 20 years ago, Netiquette was created, a set of general behavioral norms on the Internet. It means adapting real-world etiquette rules to the virtual world.
Social Impact of Writing in Uppercase
Many people consider writing in uppercase to be impolite. Although there is no specific rule, the Internet is what it is, not because of the technology but because of user behavior.
To have a better understanding of what happens, we need to consider that the person reading your message cannot see you and therefore cannot perceive the tone in which you are conveying your message. Although the Internet was created to bridge distances, it is not magical enough to interpret your mood.
- – Welcome Pedro, how are you?
- – VERY WELL, AND YOU?
- – Good, thanks… we are talking about the ways we communicate through the Internet.
- – VERY INTERESTING. I REALLY LIKE THE INTERNET BECAUSE IT’S THE ONLY WAY TO GET ATTENTION.
- – Well, Pedro, you don’t have to shout.
- – I’M NOT SHOUTINGGGGGGGGGG.
Well, that would be more or less the effect of writing in sustained uppercase. When we are online and read everything in uppercase, it creates a psychological impact on most users:
- Many people will think you are angry or want to impose your views at all costs.
- Others will think you are seeking attention.
- Others will believe you have poor spelling and grammar because many people tend to write in sustained uppercase to avoid using accents, for example, árbol = ARBOL. However, the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), the authority that establishes the rules for the correct use of our language, states that accents should be used in sustained uppercase: ÁRBOL.
USING words in SUSTAINED UPPERCASE IS NOT SOMETHING NEW
According to Professor Paul Luna, the director of the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication at the University of Reading, writing in uppercase is a sign of pomposity and solemn aesthetics used by the ancient Romans for 2,000 years when they wrote to narrate their heroic acts.
In ancient times, writing exclusively in uppercase letters was the only form of writing used. The use of lowercase letters is much more recent. In the time of Charlemagne in the 8th century, scribes began to use lowercase letters because their clarity and simplicity facilitated learning. It soon became the standard writing for books.
In a forum held in 1984, participants were asked what writing in sustained uppercase would mean to them, and one person wrote: «If I write in uppercase, it’s because I’m trying to SHOUT.» The most common ways to emphasize words on the Internet are:
- Using a WORD IN UPPERCASE is an attempt to make my word appear HIGHER, MORE PROMINENT.
- Using *asterisks* is the best way to emphasize a word.
- Writing the w o r d with spaces is another way to draw attention to a concept.
What does Graphology say about uppercase letters?
Graphology is a projective technique that analyzes handwriting to explore personality traits. Graphology tells us the following:
- Any use of uppercase letters as the only type of writing carries with it the potential increase of the writer’s pride.
- Addressing a person in writing using only uppercase letters implies a distancing attitude towards the recipient.
Proper Use of Capital Letters According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)
According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), while there are various reasons to use uppercase letters in words, phrases, or even entire texts, the customary practice is to use uppercase letters primarily at the beginning of words
How Does the User Experience (UX) Get Affected by the Use of Sustained Uppercase?
Many people state that when they come across entire blocks of text written in uppercase, they automatically give up on reading. As mentioned at the beginning, for the majority of users, it is uncomfortable and irritating to read entire blocks of text in uppercase. It has even been shown that these text blocks result in a poor user experience on web pages because they affect text legibility.
So if you are writing on a blog or website, it is highly likely that very few people will read your content. Another problem is that this can be interpreted as carelessness or laziness on our part in presenting information inappropriately, which will likely have a negative impact on SEO.
When we are publishing on our own website, the titles are already clearly visible, and there is no need to draw excessive attention.
Facebook penalizes comments written entirely in uppercase, automatically hiding the content. Page admins cannot even see these comments or receive notifications of new comments. The comments remain hidden and are represented by a symbol of three dots. From a usability perspective, we are making things difficult for visitors to our website.
I’M AN ELDERLY PERSON AND I CAN’T SEE THE LETTERS, THAT’S WHY I WRITE LIKE THIS
For many years, operating systems have offered the possibility to increase font size to make things easier. In Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, and iPhone, it is possible to adjust the font size or improve screen contrast. This is done to allow better reading for people with visual impairments or presbyopia.
I assure you, as you read this and think it’s not true, that if you configure your device properly, not only will you be able to write and read better, but you will also spend more time looking at the screen than you normally do.
Other Important Aspects of Writing on the Internet
Not caring about writing without spelling mistakes is disrespectful to the people who read our content. Due to the large number of people who misuse technology daily, poor spelling has become a text-transmitted disease.
Modern technology allows us to dictate and convert speech into text, and even correct it using dictionaries while we write. Despite all these facilities, it is incredible how people’s writing skills deteriorate day by day.
We are all victims of this disease that spreads through repeated exposure to misspelled words. After seeing a certain number of times a misspelled word, our brain begins to doubt what we believe is correct.
There is a saying that goes, «A lie repeated a thousand times becomes the truth.»
Many people no longer know when or how to write «porque» or «por qué,» whether it’s «sino» or «si no.» And something that is very common, they don’t remember the difference between «hay,» «ahí,» and «ay.» If you have made it this far, you might be interested in reading: Don’t use technology as an excuse; strive to write better every day. where I explain how dyslexia helps me write better than people who don’t have it.
«No one will die from spelling or education, but spelling reflects education, and education is behind all problems. Writing well means respecting the interlocutor, the person you are talking to, the person you are addressing your message to. Spelling is not about perfection or the absence of mistakes; spelling is an attitude.» – Pablo Zulaica Parra.
Further reading on the topic of sustained uppercase on the Internet and other netiquette rules:
This article is the result of research and common sense regarding the use of digital media.