By Peter B. Giblett
Why Are You Shouting at Me?
Occasionally, I receive more than a few emails penned entirely in upper-case. Upon reading, none were particularly urgent in nature. Other emails arrive entirely in lower case, including real names. Then I find web pages with block capitals, not just page titles, but the whole page out of the era of the telex. People, we need to do better!
When computers were limited to plain text certain conventions emerged, for example:
- UPPERCASE could enhance how loud or important words seemed
- S p a c e s i n a n d b e t w e e n w o r d s – give a different type of emphasis, perhaps slowing the reader down.
- Asterisks * around words provided sparkle.
- Or, being cool, by only using lower case.
These were the human responses that went beyond the limits of technology. Some of these conventions have existed for several decades.
Part of the challenge; there are no universal conventions.
With good reason. It is one thing to emphasise a single word, ‘boy – that is LOUD’!
It is quite another thing to use it for the whole text.
With a word processor, it is possible to show loud, by gradually changing the size of the font for extra emphasis. This doesn’t produce the same effect online using blog software. Once said about email, using upper case was the equivalent of shouting. I agree. Etiquette says it is not necessary. It is something that should be minimised.
Being cool is almost the opposite of being loud. Is the use of only lowercase cool? Some would say it is.
Ethan Ryan says it “is cool. it’s not trying to be all capitalized and proper. it’s laid-back. it’s rebellious, but in a cute, free-spirited way”.
No. No, no, not in my view. Some thoughts from AskMetaFiller: “people who write in all lower case are lazy, a would-be poet, or don’t know how to type and use the shift key simultaneously”.
It may have been acceptable if lowercase was used for something softly spoken (thus the opposite of being loud – where all caps were used). But how would a single word be distinguished and said softly? By default, they are already lower case. Someone suggested changing the font or using subscripts. Subscript works for a single word, but not a whole sentence. This is where changing font may be a clever idea. Again, blogs are not good at altering font characteristics.
Today, we can use colour in many ways to change how words are portrayed, for example, bold red for anger, and blue for pain.
It would be good in a fictional work for two characters, speaking over many pages to have their spoken dialogue in distinct colours. This way we always know when Harold is speaking.
We can see Nelson’s response strikingly different, further, we know the swift interjection came from Mary (in her colour).
Words of irrelevant characters, such as the employee, who opened the door and wished them a good day, would remain in black. I use colour on my blog occasionally, and have a plugin for this feature.
A Page of Block Capitals
Recently, I opened a blog page, and it was all block capitals. It can also be used for emphasis though. The challenge is getting the balance right. Even more curious why are they doing it. Sorry, it’s not necessary.
A psychiatrist would attribute it to a disorder of the mind. Yet, few people would compose a letter to your elderly aunt using block capital handwriting. So, why is it necessary for an email or blog post?
Membership in high society is not essential for good manners. It could be considered crass, lacking sensitivity, refinement, or intelligence. I would prefer to see everything in lower case, including i, and the start of the sentence. At least my eyes are not assaulted.
Within the context of email, instant messaging, social media, and other forms of electronic communications it has been generally accepted that upper-case text is used to convey anger, urgency or shouting. Click To Tweet
People Have A Right To Get Angry
While people do get angry, it seems people are getting angrier these days. Sometimes it seems with good reason, otherwise, it is just anger. Yet there is no call for anger in writing.
That is the time for cool, calm, and reason. Anger is rarely a good response no matter the cause in question. Stop, sit, chill out. Pause and regain your posture.
One person can be angry about something Donald Trump talks about, for example. Another person can love the speech and support his call to action. Every politician is loved and hated in almost equal shares. Both sides have a right to their own view. I am currently angry about a local city councillor who seems corrupt.
Yet, people with diverse views work together on common projects. Being angry at each other solves nothing and could end working relationships.
Words Do Evoke Emotions
Demonstrators, for example, have a purpose, they show a dislike for what is happening in society. Attending is one thing, but allowing emotions to boil over into a riot is quite another. The first is one of the rights of citizenship. The later is the height of stupidity and beyond anger. It makes their views illegitimate and the actions criminal.
Clearly, there are times when anger gets in the way of sane action. Everyone has an example they could share. But, when expressing yourself, use of clear words is advantageous. This is true whatever your view of any situation. Cool, calm and collected gets more respect.
The emotions generated by writing can be powerful and cause other people to do things. Anger is clearly one, but there are many more that drive people.
Others, more positive. The positive emotions are preferred, and many writers say you get more done with positive emotions and precise language.
To return to the technology. Does anyone remember the Telex machine? Teletype and Telex systems dated from a time when the computerised character set was much more limited than in modern computers.
Technology forced UPPERCASE, but this should not be how you type today. I remember writing computer programs in capitals, because it was necessary, but reading those were tiresome. I was grateful when the technology changed, and mixed case was adopted.
Today we can use a full range of multilingual characters, which allows systems to accommodate different scripts, like Cyrillic, Arabic, Hindi, and others.
There is no reason to have our writing governed by what now seems ancient technology.
Today there is no reason to be controlled or limited by technology. Today I am talking to my computer, dictating some of my articles. An app converts those words to text.
The speech recognition software never shouts, why would a person?
Peter B. Giblett is a freelance editor and writer with a background in business and technology management. He is also a non-practicing lawyer.
English born, now living in Canada. He’s an Alumni of City University (London) and University of West London.
Entrant and winner of National Novel Writing Month 2015, a novel he is currently editing.
He runs his own blog called GobbledeGoox, which provides thoughts on writing, as well as creating and managing your blog.
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