Three Reasons to Avoid Using “ALL CAPS" in Website Copy

Three Reasons to Avoid Using “ALL CAPS” in Website Copy

Posted by on June 14th, 2010

When creating an effective website, copywriting and graphic design go hand in hand. Think of them as your e-peanut butter and jelly. With delicious copywriting in mind, Phases Design Studio asked me to write a guest blog post about a simple way to improve website copy… and the resulting design.

One of the easiest ways you can improve your website content is to follow consistent rules of capitalization. Above all, avoid using all uppercase text (also known as “all caps”) in your headlines and text. These suggestions apply whether you’re writing your own content or reviewing the work of a copywriter.

Here are three practical reasons why…

#1: Uppercase words slow people down.

Quite simply, words written in uppercase text are harder to read. Studies show that people read uppercase words up to 10 percent slower than other text.

Some experts say that uppercase text affects word shape recognition. In other words, it’s more difficult for people to recognize and process the boxy shapes of uppercase words. Other cognitive experts have differing theories.

Regardless of why it happens, the result is the same. When you write text in all caps, you’re making your website users work harder.

Visual outlines of how the eye recognizes letter shapes

Visual outlines of how the eye recognizes letter shapes

#2: Are you yelling at me?

Without context, using all caps is often perceived as electronic yelling. You may simply be trying to get a point across ? while your users think you’re shouting at them.

To eliminate any perception of yelling and focus your users on your core messages, switch to one of the following forms of capitalization:

  • Sentence case. With sentence case, you capitalize the first letter of the first word only. For example: “Three reasons to avoid using all caps.”
  • Title case. With title case, you capitalize the first letter of each word, rather than just the first word. Typically, you exclude words such as conjunctions (e.g., “and” or “but), prepositions (e.g., “to” and “in”) and articles (e.g., “a” or “the”). For example: “Three Reasons to Avoid Using All Caps.”

Both styles are well accepted. To appear credible, the key is to be consistent across your website.

When you change erratically between styles ? for example, sometimes you capitalize words in your navigation and main titles, but other times you don’t ? you start to create issues.

According to Dr. Jakob Nielsen, website usability expert, this inconsistency can cause your website visitors to wonder whether your site is professional and trustworthy.

#3: There are better ways to emphasize text.

Most people don’t read word for word on the Internet. They scan text. They look for content that jumps out at them, such as headlines, sub-heads, and bulleted lists. They also look for bold text ? it draws their attention. If you’re trying to make a point or emphasize a message, use bold text instead of all caps. It’s an easy, effective fix.


Where to learn more…
  • For website usability tips, check out www.useit.com/alertbox. It’s one of my favorite resources for website usability guidelines.
  • For general rules of capitalization, as well as commonly accepted copywriting standards, pick up the AP Stylebook. It’s a great reference guide, particularly if you’re trying to be more consistent in your writing.

Ann Lillie is a website writer with Vine Street Communications in Denver, Colorado. She’s a frequent collaborator with Phases Design Studio.

About 

Kandra is influenced in her design by everything from Hubble Space Telescope imagery to the strawberry plants in her garden. Her concepts are known for their characteristic combination of warmth, simplicity and functionality, and for their strong resonance with her clients’ brand and corporate identities.

Questions or Comments? Leave a reply, we would love to hear from you.

2 Comments on “Three Reasons to Avoid Using “ALL CAPS” in Website Copy

    John says:

    I was stumped on this issue and now I see clearly why ALL CAPS should be avoided. Thanks!

    maranda curtis says:

    this is very helpful, thanks!!!


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