self-esteem in question

June 22, 2010 · 28 comments

A few days ago I saw an entire short story written in all small caps. Anyone on the net for more than a month has seen small-cap writing in blog comments, tweets, even whole blog posts. Though it’s rare, sometimes people WRITE IN ALL LARGE CAPS. Either way, this is not only annoying, but projects an unflattering image of the writer.

Writing in all small caps, especially referencing the first person, always makes me curious about self-esteem problems. i wonder about this… .

Do you ever write in all small caps? Anywhere?
Is there a connection with your writing and your self-image?
Do you care? 


Margie Dana June 22, 2010 at 7:40 am

Interesting topic. I’m very sensitive to type treatment in blogs – and emails. All caps, to me, are simply used to shout/dominate. They’re a typographic “voice raiser.” Exclamation points are horribly overused (even I am guilty from time to time!!) and turn sarcasm or disappointment into a breezy, upbeat response…

No worries. vs No worries! That’s ok. vs That’s OK!

Small caps? Haven’t come across this yet. I think it’s just a way for someone to stand out. But it is annoying to read more than a head or subhead in sm caps.

Hal Brown June 22, 2010 at 7:58 am

Thanks for stopping by Margie. Exclamation points are hard to control. Sometimes a sentence begs to be exclaimed. I have fought that for years.

Dr Joe June 22, 2010 at 8:53 am

i use small caps all the time in e-mails — old habit from computer bulletin boards (yes, i’m old enough to remember that “era” where caps use was considered to be “yelling” by others on the boards). now small cap use is in instant messages. but in “formal” emails i stick with typical letter-writing form.

Hal Brown June 22, 2010 at 9:13 am

I too have been around for a while, using BB and Usenet. I haven’t thought about these things for quite a while. I wonder how many people have no idea what Usenet is?
Thanks for the comment Dr Joe.

Mari June 22, 2010 at 5:23 pm

And sadly Usenet was recently turned off. :(

Mari June 22, 2010 at 9:58 am

Funny you’re covering this subject today. Just yesterday I emailed my girlfriend: “WHY ARE YOU SHOUTING AT ME?” in response to several emails with questions all posed in upper case. She did not answer my question – directly – but did stop SHOUTING at me. Typography lover since I learned to write, it’s no surprise that I became a graphic designer who is deeply sensitive to the context in which characters appear. Usually I have to curb my persnickety passion, but gladly not with you, Hal!!! (Punctuation intended to imply seriousness!!!)

Hal Brown June 22, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Some people work with systems that require all caps (certain medical records I know). I think people forget to turn that off for personal communication!!!!!!!!!
Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Debbie June 22, 2010 at 11:51 am

I agree with the comments here, thus far and I’ll add another annoyance: writing in all lower case with no regard for proper nouns, sentence structure, etc. Do people not know how to use (or un-use) the shift key?
Debbie´s last blog ..Your Thoughts: Do You Comment on Blogs?

Hal Brown June 22, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Yes, with long articles or messages this can get annoying. I wrote a post about this
You are what you write

Mari June 22, 2010 at 5:16 pm

I was taught from the first time I set my fingers in front of a bbs-enabled computer that using all caps connoted “shouting” and is, therefore, rude.
Mari´s last blog ..just a quick noteMy ComLuv Profile

Hal Brown June 22, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Remember the little Netiquette cards AOL used to send with the gazillion CDs and floppy disks? Too bad that’s not a law. But, you’re right. All caps feels like shouting.
Thanks Mari.

mari June 23, 2010 at 1:15 pm

I remember those cards. I also remember one of my aunts going nuts over those cds and doign something about it – she started making clocks and selling them. ROFL
mari´s last blog ..michael knost writing classMy ComLuv Profile

Hal Brown June 23, 2010 at 3:59 pm

There was a movement to collect a million and drop them at the door of AOL. I don’t know what happened to that. They sent so many they were filling the dumps, er, landfills as it is today. :-)

Missy June 23, 2010 at 6:52 am

If we’re talking annoyances, mine is when people do long, long, long posts with no paragraph breaks.

If I’m using all small caps, or some small caps, it’s because a child is around and I’m trying to fire one off b/f being “needed.” So now you know.

I do SHOUT and get excited(!!!) in many of my posts. Because sometimes my posts beg for SHOUTING or getting excited!!!! ;) (Plus I do love the smiley faces)

NO CLUE what Usenet is/was. (See, SHOUTING.)
Missy´s last blog ..Important Observations and Questions

Hal Brown June 23, 2010 at 7:24 am

Usenet. Think of Twitter without the silly name and unlimited characters. A lot of people still use it.

mari June 23, 2010 at 1:16 pm

i have days when i miss arpanet, abitanet, and gopher …
mari´s last blog ..michael knost writing classMy ComLuv Profile

Doug June 23, 2010 at 9:06 am

Usenet beat the hell out of twitter. Thousands of Usenet groups about anything you can think of. You can see it here:

Kissie June 23, 2010 at 10:10 am

Without reading the other comments, (that’s my disclaimer in case this is redundancy) but isn’t it called lower case? What is a small cap? Subscript? I’m slow ….are all of you guys developers or something?

Okay, had to get that out of the way … I do think there is connection between a person’s handwriting and their personality. But, you didn’t ask that – did you? My son writes so tiny until I wonder if he even wants anyone to read it. I was telling a friend how I need a magnifying glass to see what it says (this was his school work) and my friend told me when people write like that it’s because they are stingy. I don’t know the correlation between self esteem and small caps but I know this – my son IS STINGY!
Kissie´s last blog ..I Quit!

Hal Brown June 23, 2010 at 12:52 pm

I’m surprised no one caught that. Small caps means uppercase that is simply smaller, I think. It is in fact lowercase, meaning no caps.
No, you are not slow, we are.
Thanks Kissie.

Kissie June 23, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Okay, so why is my son so stingy? Is that another post?
Kissie´s last blog ..I Quit!

Hal Brown June 23, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Maybe he is conservative. Prudent. Frugal.
RTed your post, but I don’t know if it went through. Beautiful.

Jon June 24, 2010 at 12:51 pm

i’ve noticed in my past experience and work environment that people whom I would have thought would type in very proper manors, do not at all. i think at the end of the day, older generations stress the use of proper punctuation, and the younger one is tending to expand the horizons of “being punctual while at the same time appearing non-punctual…” does that make sense? lots of big wig label executives and managers talk on blogs and email formats like they just started typing… others tend to show half and half, while some do not miss one comma. depending on your industry, and who you communicate with, the manor in which you communicate will change greatly. for instance, two friends instant messaging back and fourth to each other will hardly ever use correct punctuation. just my 2 cents while i type in all caps… now the question is did I do that on purpose??? ;)

Hal Brown June 24, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Hi Jon – What? Could you repeat that? :-)

Karen June 26, 2010 at 1:59 pm

People still do that? I thought writing in all caps went out years ago. Just goes to show you that we need the netiquette guide again for the newbies :-)

I could never understand why some one would write in all caps or all in lowercase. It’s worse when you think of people, such as k.d. lang or e.e.cummings who do that. What’s the message? To me, it does give off a lack of self-esteem. I’m sure that’s not the intent but that’s the way I read it.

Karen´s last blog ..Increase Your Negotiation Skills- Is Win-Win The Best TacticMy ComLuv Profile

Hal Brown June 26, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Hi Karen,
Wow, I forgot about e.e. cummings. I think that may have been more of a signature style than simply not using a keyboard correctly. When I read e.e. cummings it never occurred to me that self-esteem was an issue. But, back then (yes, I’m dating myself) we didn’t live in a pop-psych culture.

roezer June 28, 2010 at 8:10 am

I think there is something worse than writing in small caps which is people who don’t use paragraphs.I have seen 2000 word blog posts and no spacing which is more difficult to read.But I agree capital letters mean shouts so they should only be used when needed.
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Hal Brown June 28, 2010 at 11:19 am

Agreed on this. If I really want to read something like that (usually not) I have to space it myself. That’s not going to happen very often.
Thanks for stopping by.

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