Is writing in capitals ever a good idea?

Think twice before writing anything in capitals – whether individual words, complete sentences or (horror of horrors) whole paragraphs.

Some people think that writing in capitals, or upper case letters, can make their words or meanings stand out. That is sometimes true, but only for individual words or very short phrases, or perhaps headings (provided they’re not too long). Using capitals for emphasis is regarded as poor style in most professional publications.

What is almost universally true is that a sentence or paragraph presented all in capitals is much harder to read quickly than one in upper and lower case (like this one). Using capitals like this is like shouting at the person sitting next to you, in the hope of making your meaning clearer. It just doesn’t work.

If you really want to emphasise something, use italics or perhaps bold for individual words or short phrases – but use either of them sparingly. As they say, less is often more.


About Stephen Wellings

I am a publishing and training professional with over 30 years' editorial and senior management experience in companies such as McGraw-Hill, Pan Books, International Thomson, The Open College, Butterworth-Heinemann and Pergamon Open Learning. During my career I have commissioned and published hundreds of books and learning materials in science, technology, social science, business and management. I have designed, developed and published major distance learning programmes, including one of the world’s largest for ACCA, the professional accounting body. I am accomplished at delivering sizeable publishing and training projects on time, within budget and to exacting quality standards. In my spare time I promote live modern jazz in the Thames Valley, under the Jazz in Reading brand. I am also Co-chair of Reading Borough Council's Learning Disabilities Partnership Board.
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