capsHere’s a story about a woman in New Zealand who lost her accountancy job after sending “confrontational” e-mails with lots of block capitals.

The recipients feel like the sender is shouting at them.

As you know we have rules on how to write on the blog and although we don’t state that capitals shouldn”t be used, it does come into that grey area called “blog courtesy”. 

Why do people – me included – have a problem with CAPITAL LETTERS in an e-mail or blog post?

28 Responses to “STOP SHOUTING !!”

  1. 1 Mark Sandell
    September 3, 2009 at 11:18

    Found this on the Cornell University site :

  2. 2 Dennis Junior
    September 3, 2009 at 11:19

    I think that the reason for most of us, still using “Block” Letters aka Capital Letters….is from our primary school years……

    =Dennis Junior=

  3. 3 claudiabradshaw
    September 3, 2009 at 11:20

    It seems it’s not just capital letters that are causing a stir. Nelson emailed me (Claudia) with this suggestion too. Thanks Nelson!

    Good morning,
    I saw from twitter that you and Helen are on the morning shift. I have a debate suggestion although it maybe trivial, it’s something a lot of young people can relate with worldwide. Are abbreviations affecting the way we communicate? Most times during informal communications on social networking sites, emails, text messages, people no longer write certain words in full, they just abbreviate them and some times we get so used to them that it creeps into formal communications. I hope it can be expanded.

  4. September 3, 2009 at 11:40

    Texts in capital letters are not as easily read as normal written texts. And in normal written text, when we try to highlight something, sometimes there’s no other means available than resorting to CAPITAL letters. It seems pleasant enough, just one word in capitals. The thing is also, which word YOU highlight. Sometimes context may be interpreted wrongly or sometimes the writer is being very direct, TRYING TO TELL YOU WHICH WORDS TO HIGHLIGHT.

    Pardon me for raising my letters 😉

    • September 3, 2009 at 18:33

      Normal courtesy is maintained by normal people.
      Just as in conversation, some people tend to shout to emphasize a point.
      But normal people need not shout and do not yell out as they are clearly understood by normal people.
      The abnormal will shout and yell as it’s their nature. QED.

  5. 6 Mark Sandell
    September 3, 2009 at 12:02

    Konstantin you are FORGIVEN.

  6. 7 Ros Atkins
    September 3, 2009 at 12:09

    i go the other way and rarely use capitals at all in emails which infuriates sticklers from grammar. i’m forever being told off my american listeners for this.

    September 3, 2009 at 12:19


  8. 11 Elina
    September 3, 2009 at 12:34

    This goes now slightly off the original topic, but I was just thinking that this whole matter about electronic communication is actually quite interesting. I guess that one thing that makes it so special is the total lack of all the non-verbal cues (what is said without using words; like facial expression, tone of voice, gestures etc.), which normally come along with the message and are extremely meaningful in our social relations. I’d suppose that’s one reason why electronic messages can be so easily misinterpreted and misunderstood. As for capital letters, I know that they are usually understood as “shouting”, but perhaps they aren’t always meant to be that way. The real meaning just might be lost as the whole context of what one says or writes isn’t available.

  9. 12 Dennis Junior
    September 3, 2009 at 13:00

    Hi, Mark:

    Thanks, for you using Cornell University information, that is in the same county; Tompkins County where I am attending Community College (in Dryden)….Tompkins-Cortland Community College!!!!!!

    =Dennis Junior=

  10. 13 anu_d
    September 3, 2009 at 13:25

    what if someone does what to shout at you ocassionally ?

  11. September 3, 2009 at 14:33

    I think that a well written post,blog, e-mail or even an old fashioned letter should be written as per basic language taught. Upper case,where required,and lower case ditto. Words are very powerful, and one does not really need them jumping out of the page at you. There are many people have difficulty with the written word and the language,and I think that WHYS,is a great opportunity to broadcast a reasonably good presentation of the written word,considering that WHYS,is a world wide entity. And yes Ros,sorry, but it is bad grammar not to use capitals where required. If we all change the rules,goodness knows where it will end

  12. 16 Roy, Washington DC
    September 3, 2009 at 15:01

    @ Nelson

    People who spend a lot of time texting and/or talking online get so used to how they talk that it seems natural to them. WHYSers in the USA might recognize this commercial from a couple of years ago, which demonstrates this quite well:

    (It’s the infamous “IDK my BFF Jill” commercial)

  13. 17 Jennifer
    September 3, 2009 at 16:01

    It’s not shouting, it’s being EXPRESSIVE! 😀

    I don’t think it’s wrong to write in all caps; when it’s appropriate. It’s all in the context of what you are saying and the intent.

    Sometimes the meaning of one’s words and the intent gets lost in type and face to face is less complicated.

  14. 18 ecotopian
    September 3, 2009 at 16:07

    Why is this even a topic? Sorry if that sounds rude, but using all caps is not in any gray area. It is considered rude and unacceptable at every blog I have ever visited. Put it another way, if you want your post ignored, use all caps.

  15. 19 Tom D Ford
    September 3, 2009 at 16:11

    The poet e. e. cummings eschewed capital letters and for a good reason but I forget what it was. Someone will come along and remind us.

    So Ros you’re in good company.

  16. 20 Kevin Brady, Phoenix AZ USA
    September 3, 2009 at 16:17

    What is important is that people do interpret all capitals as shouting, and react as if you were shouting at them. To communicate your ideas you need to reach out to your audience in the ‘language’ they will accept.

  17. 21 Tom D Ford
    September 3, 2009 at 16:22

    @ ecotopian
    September 3, 2009 at 16:07

    “… Put it another way, if you want your post ignored, use all caps.”

    That’s what I have learned about the internet. When someone uses all caps I just skip to the next post.

    I try to write correctly because any misspelling, grammar mistakes, all caps, incorrect punctuations, long expository sentences, lack of paragraphs, etc distracts from whatever message I want to get across.

    I learned from Ernest Hemingway to use short concise sentences to get points across.

  18. September 3, 2009 at 16:52

    Verbal shouting is,in conversation, nothing more than bullying and trying to intimidate;politicians do it with regularity. I am still not convinced that upper case are needed in the normal every day written word,I understand lower case very well and if I am not sure I can always ask for clarification,writting in caps; does not make it any clearer. So could it possibly be a form of bullying?

  19. 23 Half-Not
    September 3, 2009 at 17:35

    From a functional point of view, sentence case is easier to read then all capitals. Uppercase and lowercase were invented for function, to easily differentiate or separate thoughts. You loose certain amounts of grammatical clarity in all caps.

    However the objections are never about function, they are about dictating the way things should be on a superficial level. By fussy people. Stuck people—who need to be unstuck, from their middle-class rigidity.

  20. 24 viola
    September 3, 2009 at 17:37

    I use capital letters to indicate italics for emphasizing a word. How do others indicate italics? I haven’t even figured out how to underline words on the computer keyboard. I’m definitely not a computer nerd–more like a computer dummy. If I’ve ever insulted anyone by using caps in such a way, it was unintended.

  21. 25 nora
    September 3, 2009 at 18:52

    The same executive at my boyfriend’s firm yells in the hall and then goes back to his computer station and vents streams of evil e-mails on people. Jerks will be jerks, but at least computers have delete buttons.

  22. 26 david sant
    September 3, 2009 at 20:53

    Amazing! what a strange world we live in ,obscenities spouted out with very few sentences of English Grammer ,in almost every movie from the states.
    A drunken yob is apprehended by the policein an English city for swearing.the police officer says “we dont put up with language like that around here” Hypocritical !!or just plain English double standards.

  23. 27 T
    September 3, 2009 at 21:56

    Who came up with this no-caps rule, anyway? Is there some International Email Standards Bureau (probably has EU connections) that writes this stuff? I’d like to know.

  24. 28 patti in cape coral
    September 3, 2009 at 23:10

    I try to write the same way I would speak because it’s just easier for me to understand that way. I think some people use all caps because they are not great at typing, and it makes it easier for them. I would rather read a message with no caps Ros-style, than all caps. I work for a doctor that loves to yell at us on paper. If we make an error, he will send back the offending document with bold block letters that look like he almost put the pen through the paper in his ire! Ugh.

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