Control the Use of Capitals

Capital letters play an important role in communication. They add emphasis to key words and help readers recognize concepts you find important.

Like many useful things, however, a little capitalization goes a very long way.

I was reminded of this during a recent research foray. A pivotal resource site had high quality content. Unfortunately, the over-zealous use of caps made it very difficult to read, let alone deduce what was important and what wasn't.

On the plus side, the website presented information in a mix of paragraphs and bullet lists, which is a useful way to guide visitors through complicated content. They also avoided using all caps, which is the text equivalent of bellowing at the top of your lungs.

On the negative side, the bulleted items were quite long and every word was capitalized. It looked a bit like this:
  • Useful Content Is Difficult To Decipher And Confusing To Readers When Every Word Is Capitalized Without Regard To Relative Importance And Its Potential Value To Your Customers And Other Likely Visitors.
To make matters more difficult, they resorted to random italics, bolding and underlining in an effort to emphasize pivotal points.
  • Useful Content Is Difficult To Decipher And Confusing To Readers When Every Word Is Capitalized Without Regard To Relative Importance And Its Potential Value To Your Customers And Other Likely Visitors.
The situation was further complicated by the wealth of technical detail embedded in the lists describing a series of intricate factors related to specialized machining processes.

Picture a web site filled with bulleted items like those above, one after another, and you begin to see the problem. To describe the effect as overwhelming would be an extreme understatement.

It's easy avoid these pitfalls. Simply follow a few basic guidelines to effectively handle capitalization on your website or blog.

1. Restrict all caps to very short tab labels, titles or headings:
  • PRODUCTS
  • CORE CRITERIA
  • FIVE FACTORS
2. Capitalize only the key words in longer titles or headings:
  • Product Applications
  • Core Criteria for New Users
  • Five Factors to Consider
3. Use initial caps for phrases and sentences:
  • To learn more about the best applications for our products, read our collection of case studies.
  • If you're a new user, take time to review the core criteria.
  • Keep the five factors in mind, because they will have a direct impact on production processes and part quality.
As you apply these guidelines, be consistent. Establish basic standards for routine elements and follow them. A very simple strategy might look like this:
  • Tab Labels (capitalize key words)
  • Article Titles and Page Headings (bold; capitalize key words)
  • SIDEBAR HEADINGS (all caps; smaller font size; accent color)
The bottom line? You've invested time and money to ensure your website features quality content that delivers real value. Take a few simple, practical measures to leverage this investment by presenting a polished, professional online presence.

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Related
Before & After (examples)
The Humble Hyphen
Writing Simplified

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