Updated: March 2023

“There are instances in written communication where ‘louder’ communication or an emphasis on certain words or phrases is required.”

Have you ever wondered why some people block print? Or, why typing a message in ALL CAPS means yelling?

I mean, who came up with that rule?

The interpretation of All CAPS indicating shouting comes from Ben Zimmer, a language columnist for the Wall Street Journal, who discovered a newsgroup user in 1984 who declared, “if it’s in caps i’m trying to YELL!”.

In the early days of the internet, ALL CAPS was also an obvious sign that the person was a newbie to the online universe.

As it turns out, people who write in ALL CAPS are most likely trying to express strong feeling – it is an example of typographical tone of voice. Or, they may simply want to remain mysterious.

According to graphology*, ALL-CAPS writers have some personality traits in common. They are typically uncomfortable talking about their personal lives or do not want others to know too much about themselves. Interesting, right?

*Graphology is the analysis of the physical characteristics and patterns of handwriting with attempt to identify the writer, indicate the psychological state at the time of writing, or evaluate personality characteristics. It is generally considered a pseudoscience.

Just like in verbal communication, there are instances in written communication where ‘louder’ communication or an emphasis on certain words or phrases is required.  Even though many people believe that writing in all caps is rude, there are times when it’s totally okay to use CAPS.

 When to Use CAPS

  • In short phrases or strings of words when bolding, underlining, italics or any other form of stylized formatting is not possible
  • For branding purposes
  • When it is grammatically correct to do so (proper nouns, titles, at the start of a sentence, etc.)
  • For acronyms
  • For contractions (SciFi, short for science fiction, is an example)
  • When filling out a handwritten form (it makes interpretation of the letters easier)

Did You Know?

A capital letter in the middle of a name is known as Camel Case* (iPhone, iOS, eBay, PayPal, MasterCard, iSPARK). Camel Case has been around since 1813 when a Swedish chemist named Jacob Berzelius used it to make it easier to write chemicals.

Since 1950, the humps have slowly multiplied in the marketing world. It’s a technique that traditionalists abhor, but innovators crave.

*According to Wikipedia, Camel Case is a typographical convention in which an initial capital is used for the first letter of a word forming the second element of a closed compound. The name derives from how the letters look like humps.

Pro Tip ⇒ CamelCase can make a url domain name or a hashtag easier to read or more distinct and is highly recommended for social media accessibility as many screen readers cannot identify individual words when written in all lowercase letters.


www.bobssandwiches.com versus www.BobsSandwiches.com


#sorrynotsorry versus #SorryNotSorry or #FollowFRiday instead of #followfriday

Camel Case is not just for people with disabilities. It improves readability for people who are in a hurry, stressed, multi-tasking, those whose first language is not English, or people with low literacy.

When to Avoid CAPS

  • Texting (it is harder to read and is almost always interpreted as shouting or conveying anger)
  • Randomly (ThiS Is An ANNoyInG UsE oF CaPs)*

*It is important to note that deliberately alternating caps in a text message is considered mockery or can also be interpreted as sarcasm (eg i’M aN iDiOt).

Confession from a Lover of CAPS

I have a secret obsession with CAPS. There – I’ve said it. My surname at birth is MacLean and it made me crazy growing up when people forgot the capital L. It was an important distinguishing feature in our family that set us apart from the Maclean’s and the Mclean’s*.

*I grew up in Nova Scotia and MacLean (written various ways) is a fairly common surname.

This obsession is the main reason why I used Camel Case in our company name. People do screw it up from time to time, but I DON’T CARE BECAUSE I LOVE HOW IT LOOKS WRITTEN WITH A LOWERCASE I AND THE REST IN ALL CAPS!

Yes, I was yelling.

For more communication tips or musings that may or may not involve capital letters, feel free to reach out for a complimentary 15-minute telephone chat.