by anthony on 09/04/10 at 4:14 pm
Do you remember the story where a woman got fired from her job for using all caps in an email? There’s something about text in all caps that turns people off. Using it in a social context means you’re yelling. But using it in a design context means your website has bad readability. People sometimes use text in all caps to emphasize their message. However, what they are actually doing is de-emphasizing their message. This is because text in all caps reduces the shape contrast for each word.
The shape of any word put in all caps for any font, either sans-serif or serif, is a rectangle. This means that text in all caps only show one parallel edge at the top and bottom of each word, giving them low shape contrast. However, text put in title style capitalization show multiple adjacent edges at the top and bottom, giving them high shape contrast. The more nonparallel edges your text has, the higher the shape contrast it has. High shape contrast makes each word easy for users to recognize. If you want your to make your text easier to read, consider using title style capitalization instead of all caps.
When is it okay to use all caps? All caps are fine in contexts that don’t involve reading, such as logos and acronyms. But when your message involves reading, don’t force users to read it with bad shape contrast. The caps lock key is a key that designers should rarely use. In emails, using all caps is a sign of bad manners. In design, using all caps is a sign of bad readability.