Have You Noticed How Hard It Is To Read This Question? IS IT CLEARER WHEN I WRITE IN CAPITALS? Probably not.
Whilst browsing Gumtree this week I was struck by the proliferation of adverts constructed entirely in capital letters.
Capitals play an important part in English as they convey emotions and signify importance yet incorrect use of capitals can confuse your readers and place emphasis on the wrong elements of a piece.
Studies have been conducted into the readability of sentences using capital letters. Of particular relevance is a 1955 study by Miles Tinker.
Specifically, the results showed that “all-capital text retarded speed of reading from 9.5 to 19.0 per cent for the 5 and 10 minute time limits, and 13.9 per cent for the whole 20 minute period.” Tinker concluded that, “Obviously, all-capital printing slows reading to a marked degree in comparison with Roman lower case.”
Words displayed in all-capital are shown to impede the flow of text and distort the intended meaning of a sentence.
The following are 9 essential rules to ensuring correct capitalisation:
1. Capitalise the first word in a sentence
2. Capitalise the pronoun “I”
3. Capitalise proper nouns: names of specific people, places, organisations and sometimes things.
e.g. London, Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth II, Royal National Institute for the Deaf, Coca-Cola
4. Capitalise family relationships when used as proper nouns e.g. Uncle Ben and Grandma Betty but leave lower case when not referring to a name e.g. we visit my grandma every year
5. Capitalise directions that are names used for sections of the country e.g. the North West is unusually warm this spring. This doesn’t occur for compass directions e.g. we drove south for two hours.
6. Capitalise members of political, national, racial and social groups e.g. Chinese, Liberal Democrats, Conservatives.
7. Capitalise periods and events, but not century numbers e.g. the Victorian period, Elizabethan reign, the Silver Jubilee and the eighteenth century.