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capital letters are my friends

I've discovered a number of new blogs lately with some really good thoughts. They're places that I'd go back to regularly, but for one thing:

They don't use any capitalization.

I understand that this is a very 'hep' thing to do, and that much of it springs from the world of instant messaging, where capital letters are used infrequently. When I instant message, I use a lot fewer caps as well, and my titles for posts often omit them. I've used all lower-case letters in some designs for logos and taglines. I love the poetry of lucille clifton, which is in all lower-case letters.

What all of these things -- post titles, instant messages, taglines, clifton's poetry -- have in common, though, is that they're brief lines of text. When I'm reading longer passages of prose, I find it to be very hard work to read if there aren't the natural visual breaks provided by conventional punctuation, paragraphing, and capital letters.

It's not that I think that conventional grammar and typography are moral goods; if anything, I feel a little guilty for not reading something solely because it's entirely in lower-case letters. I've never left a huffy comment on someone's blog about capitalization or punctuation, and I don't intend to start. I have occasionally suggested to someone that their fundraising letters to a diverse readership or their grant applications will probably be more successful if they use conventional grammar and typography, but that's a different matter entirely. But it does make me a little sad when I miss out on someone's perfectly good or even wonderful ideas simply because the typography requires more effort to read than I can manage in the midst of everything else I keep up with.

Am I getting prematurely crotchety, incredibly lazy, or overly demanding? I don't know, but while the proliferation of new media such as blogs that make publishing affordable has at least one down side: with so very much published information out there, there's a lot more competition for readers, and someone who wants a broad readership (not everyone does, of course) to gain influence for their ideas needs to be even more conscientious about removing potential roadblocks for readers.

May 28, 2005 in Writing | Permalink


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I had a cousin who insisted on writing all of her emails IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. This was, as you can probably imagine, just about the most annoying thing in the world. When I asked her if she might stop, she said she was "used to it," because that's how the people at her work wrote their emails. In the end, I had to tell her to change her method, or stop emailing me. Thankfully, she changed.

We use capital letters and punctuation for a reason. To those who think they're passé: you have been warned.

Posted by: James | May 29, 2005 9:02:51 AM

i use capital letters when blogging except for when using 'i' or if I have written poetry. It's something a friend of mine does and i picked up. When writing emails to friends, i tend to go back and forth on using caps and lower case, depending on my mood. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Adele

Posted by: Existential Punk | May 29, 2005 2:54:53 PM

graphic arts and good layouts...

...yes...they can dictate the line of text and the right place ment of a BIG a.

How much of it has to do with teh visual nature of the internet. A blog is a fluid and changing graphic.

Or is it not?

Posted by: Tripp | May 31, 2005 5:53:47 PM

The lower case personal pronoun "i" is one of my pet peeves. I can't bear it.

It either looks overly cutesy, or it strikes me as faux-humble: e.g., "i'm so modest that i don't even capitalize i." If the latter is the case, it fails miserably, since it draws even MORE attention to the word.

Unless you are a thirteen year old girl who draws hearts over the "i" for dots, or you are e.e. cummings, please capitalize "I!"

Posted by: Pascale Soleil | Jun 7, 2005 12:17:32 PM

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