Capital letters: do they deserve capital punishment?

Too many capital letters: give them the chop?

Capital letters are weird things within the realms of writing, if only because they go in and out of fashion faster that rats going up and down drain pipes.

Within my own living memory I have seen fashions for minimal (if any) capitalization of titles, headlines, etc. – especially in the 1970s-1980s when there was a vogue for all lower-case phrases that were as spaced out as us trendy youths were supposed to be … t r e n d y  a n d  s p a c e d  o u t.

Recently however (I’m talking 2012) I’m amused to see that spaced out phrases are back in fashion for titles, headlines, etc., but this time using capital letters. C A P I T A L   L E T T E R S   R U L E   A G A I N, perhaps?


It’s worth bearing in mind that using all capital letters – whether space out or not – makes text harder to read than a mixture of upper and lower cases. And don’t forget that using all caps in online posts, SocMed sites etc. is considered to be SHOUTING.

No matter how important you think nouns and other words may be, it is wrong to give them a capital first letter unless they are “proper” nouns – official names of people, places, organisations, countries or continents. And certainly there’s no need to give words capital letters when they’re not even nouns.

Recognize That Capitalizing Every Word Just Gets Up Everyone’s Noses

In the past few years, I know that it has been fashionable – especially in North America – to capitalize every word in a headline or title but trust me, it’s hard to read and very irritating. Hopefully this trend has been a passing phase, but just in case it isn’t, do yourself a favour and capitalize only proper nouns and the key words of a headline.

Contrary to what some so-called communication gurus tell you, capitalizing every word in a sentence does NOT make it seem more important or worth taking seriously. I think it makes a headline look like a train crash, and so do many others albeit perhaps subconsciously! All it does is make the reader think that your phrase, title or sentence doesn’t have a lot of weight behind it and that’s why you have capitalized it … to make it seem more important and worthwhile.

As always the rules of grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax and other key issues with the English language are changing and evolving as we share this blog post. So be aware that capital letters need to know their place.

Capital punishment?

Perhaps not. To chop capital letters off many nouns would be denying them their proper place in our language and writing.

But to stuff capital letters on to words that don’t deserve them is just silly and as I suggested above, makes the sentences in which they’re involved difficult to read and – frankly – hard to take seriously.

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  1. Suze
    I am a capital minimalist so your remarks fall on fertile ground.

    One place I do use them is when I refer to a specific: a specific Company, Island or Official in an article or blog. This helps to distinguish the particular and specific from the generic.

    Happy lower case!


  2. lower case rules o k …! xx

  3. Hi Suzan


    But I prefer this

    Capital Letters: Do they deserve Capital Punishment?

    To this

    Capital letters: do they deserve capital punishment?

    It’s a head line after all.

    You seem to be inconsistent in your menu text. Please explain?


    • I think you can emphasize headlines typographically, Andrew, rather than sticking capital letters where strictly (grammatically) speaking they are wrong.

      Menu text is inconsistent as not everyone agrees with my nit-picking over visual consistency, and other people work on this site (including those WordPress gnomes themselves…)

      Thanks for dropping by!