Sunday, June 30, 2013

Still Life With Robin: The End of ALL CAPS?

by Peggy Robin

I have discovered a small gem of a blog I'd like to recommend: It's called One Man Focus Group by Paul Lukas, and I am particularly pleased to spread the word about the blogger's latest pronouncement,, in which he takes on one of those petty little irritants that I have long resisted writing about (I thought it would make me seem like too much of a pedantic curmudgeon): MESSAGE WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS. I am gratified to find someone who finds typing in all caps even more annoying than I do. And I am much reassured by his report that the practice is fading fast.

The demise of all caps has been a longed-for but seemingly unattainable goal of mine since the founding of the listserv in 1999. Messages written in all caps have long presented a peculiar problem, seemingly trivial but at the same off-putting, even disturbing. In the "netiquette" of the online world, the poster who uses all caps is shouting -- and we don't post like to post messages that make people feel someone is shouting at them. Still, sometimes it's more work for the moderators to write to the poster to ask him or her to retype and resend the message than it is just to run it through a conversion program that changes all caps to normal sentence case. However, that doesn't always fix the message perfectly. When it comes to abbreviations or proper names, there may be some manual fixes required. If the message is brief enough, it could even be faster just to retype the whole thing. I suppose we could just delete any message in all caps, rather than try to fix it --and we do, sometimes-- but then there are the police reports and weather reports that *always* arrive in all caps format. That's how they send them out, and we need to decide if we can stand the look of all caps or are willing to take on the task of putting them in more readable form.

Paul Lukas gives me hope that this task could become a thing of the past. If, like me, you care about the look --and the underlying associations implicit in the look-- of letters on a page or a screen, then I have a wonderful book to recommend, called Just My Type: A Book About Fonts, by Simon Garfield. THIS IS REALLY THE GREATEST BOOK EVER on typography. (Yes, I meant to shout that praise.)


Still Life With Robin is usually published on the Cleveland Park Listserv,, and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays, but it was a day late today.

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