I love dialog.
It’s great hearing and reading other people’s opinions. Even when they disagree with me.
Because good communication matters to me, I want to enhance all of our dialog – especially online – with a friendly word of advice to a particular group of people.
I call them All Caps Communicators.
You know who they are. You may even be one of them. These are the folks who love the CAPS LOCK button on their keyboard.
If you are an All Caps Communicator, I want to address you on behalf of everyone who has attempted to read your blog, your Facebook post or your comment, by giving you one word of friendly advice.
(I guess that’s two words).
You think your Caps Lock button is helping you. It’s not.
You think it punches things up. It doesn’t.
It actually does the opposite of what you want it to do. When you use the Caps Lock button, you’re not making your point more strongly, you’re losing us entirely.
Here are 7 things that happen when you overuse the Caps Lock button:
1. It Feels Like You’re Yelling
All Caps is how people yell in text. You may not see it when you write it, but when I read something in All Caps, I wonder WHY IS THIS PERSON YELLING AT ME! (Can you see it now? I hope so.)
2. It Encourages Argument, Not Conversation
Because it feels like yelling, it also feels angry. And the appearance of anger breeds more anger. And more arguments. It doesn’t pull people in, it pushes them away.
People don’t like being yelled at. It makes them want to either walk away or fight back, not engage in conversation.
3. It Looks Amateurish
Pick up any book or read any blog by a respected writer. You can go through an entire book, or years of blog posts with little or no use of All Caps.
Good writers write well. They don’t need All Caps to get their point across.
4. It’s Hard to Read
Here’s another look at my opening paragraphs, this time with All Caps overused as I have often seen it done:
“I love DIALOG.
It’s great HEARING and READING other people’s opinions. Even when they DISAGREE with me.
Because GOOD COMMUNICATION MATTERS TO ME, I want to ENHANCE all of our DIALOG – ESPECIALLY ONLINE – with a FRIENDLY word of ADVICE to a PARTICULAR GROUP of PEOPLE.
I CALL THEM ALL CAPS COMMUNICATORS.”
No, that’s not an exaggeration. I wish it was. But I’ve seen it done. So have you.
The use of All Caps didn’t help those opening paragraphs be more understandable, it made them virtually unreadable.
5. It Diminishes the Strength of Your Argument
When you have a good argument, the content of your words are what matters. When you use All Caps, it tells people your argument is weak, so you need to punch it up.
Using All Caps weakens a strong argument, and does nothing to help a weak one.
6. It’s Lazy
Using the Caps Lock button instead of using a better argument is lazy writing. Find a better way to emphasize what you want to say.
Strengthen the content of your argument instead of leaning on the Caps Lock button to do the work for you.
7. Most People Stop Reading
You think people are paying attention, but they’re not. Sure, you always get a hearty "Amen!” from a few folks, but it’s almost always from the same few people – usually fellow All Caps users. No one else is being convinced, because no one else can read what you’re writing without getting a headache. Even if we want to read it.
You’ll notice I can’t even bring myself to write All Caps in ALL CAPS more than twice in this post. Why? Because I want people to read it.
So what should you do if you really want to get an important point across?
Draw Us In
I want to know what you have to say. I really do.
So please help me and help yourself.
Stop using All Caps.
Stop pushing people away and start drawing us in. Help us know you’re engaging in the dialog instead trying to shout us down. Make your content matter more than your Caps Lock button.
And yes, this also applies to speaking. Even preaching.
Talk, don’t yell.
I know the old-time announcers and preachers had deep, powerful voices that gave them a feeling of moral authority when they spoke. But that was then. We have microphones now. They had to project because the audio system, if they had one, was poor. That’s almost never the case today.
So, if you’re a yeller, please re-read the above points about why we shouldn’t use All Caps and apply them to speaking, too. Use your indoor voice.
How Much Is Too Much?
So how much use of All Caps is too much?
From my personal experience, I would say that if you’re using All Caps in more than one out of ten of your online posts or comments, you’re overdoing it. And if you use it more than twice in a single post, it’s too much. (Unless you’re writing a post about the overuse of All Caps, of course.)
Here’s a good rule-of-thumb. If there is any way to avoid using All Caps, avoid it.
By the way, this also applies to using – here it comes – exclamation points!
Use exclamation points as sparingly as the above guidelines for All Caps. For all the same reasons.
And never use more than one exclamation point at a time!!!!!!
Yes, This Means You
If you’re reading this because a friend forwarded it to you, please pay attention. We’re trying to help.
We want to hear what you have to say. This will help us do that.
Also, if you really want to make your communication better, try this. Start using proper punctuation.
There are very few things harder to read than one long run-on sentence without punctuation it’s so hard to read it really is sometimes not having punctuation can even change your intended meaning honestly it can so please stop doing this it drives everyone crazy.
And here’s one I’m not even going to get into…the overuse…and mean serious overuse…of ellipses…well… that’s a subject…for another post…
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