Writing in All Caps is Like Shouting

Netiquette Says to Stop Writing in All Caps

Businesswoman shouting into bullhorn
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One of the cardinal rules of writing online, whether in email, forums, or instant messages, is to never use all capital letters. This is known as writing in all caps. If you make this mistake, you may quickly be told to stop shouting.

When you write in all capital letters, it looks to most recipients as if you were shouting. You should use all caps sparingly. It is a strong effect, and it should remain one.

 

Stop Shouting - Write in Mixed Case

Text in all upper case is significantly more difficult to read than lower and mixed case text. It's best to write online in sentence case or mixed case, with the first letter of the first word of a sentence and proper nouns capitalized. That is how people are used to reading printed material.

 Use of all caps should be reserved for emphasis only. It is best used only for short strings of words rather than full sentences. You could choose instead to use italics or bold to set off text for emphasis.

Types of Cases

  • All Caps: THIS IS AN ALL CAPS SENTENCE.
  • Mixed Case or Sentence Case: This is a mixed case sentence with only the first word and proper nouns such as John Smith capitalized.
  • Title Case: The First Letter of Most Words Is Capitalized in Title Case.
  • All Lower Case: this is sentence written all in lower case letters.
  • Random Mixed Capitalization: ThIs mEaNs you wRitE UsiNg capiTals aT RanDom.
  • camelCase: This is not usually used for sentences, but rather for branding, with a media capital in the middle of a name, such as iPhone, iOS, etc.

Should You Use Lower Case Only?

If you type in all caps because you find it faster and more convenient, consider using lower case only. You will annoy some people.

But all lower case seems more widely accepted than all caps.

The History of All Caps Writing

Old-time teletype machines and some early computers used all caps. In newsrooms, reporters and on-air announcers were used to reading wire service stories, police bulletins, and weather bulletins that were transmitted in all caps. The Navy hung onto using it in their messaging system until 2013, and the National Weather Service didn't switch to mixed case in its bulletins until May, 2016.

But early in the internet era, use of all caps on bulletin boards and in email was discouraged and those who used them were accused of shouting. For many years, it was regarded as a sign of being a newbie to compose in all caps online.

It is harder to use all caps when texting with a mobile device since there isn't an easy caps lock button on mobile virtual keyboards. Users have to tap the caps button each time they want to capitalize a letter. However, use of random capitalization, especially in names, was for some years considered to be edgy and fashionable among younger users.