JS Tip 146: From the Writing Workshops: The Real Reason You Shouldn’t Use ALL CAPS

Most of us don’t like to read all caps because they convey screaming.

Supposedly, in the early days of telegraphy, telegraph-station typewriters had only capital letters (to save money). And, since most telegrams were urgent (“HELP ME! SEND MONEY!”), we associated capital letters with urgency and screaming.

But there’s another, more practical reason for not using all caps.

Look at this:

         ALL CAPS

It’s a block. A big rectangle.

No ascenders. (Ascenders are the lines that ascend above the letter-line on the “b,” “d,” “f,” “h,” “k,” “l,” and “t.” Your fifth-grade teacher, Miss Landers, may have called them “giraffe necks.”)

No descenders. (Descenders are the lines that descend below the letter-line on the “g,” “j,” “p,” “q,” and “y.” Miss Landers may have called them “monkey tails.”)

Without the ascenders and descenders, the word’s harder to recognize. It takes your reader an extra second to recognize the word.

Now watch:

         all caps

Ascenders on the “l”; descenders on the “p.” Wow. This stuff works.  

Next week: The gobbledygook keeps on coming. A look at some recent financial reports.