A Short Rant About The Overuse of Capitals

If you read that headline and saw nothing at all wrong with it then pay attention – this post is for you. If you read it and wanted to punch me in the face, you’ll probably enjoy this as well.

I have talked before about my pet spelling and grammar hates, especially when it comes to text messages, but this is a very specific rant about the overuse of capitals. Having worked for some time as a copywriter and having spent a couple of years in the newsroom of my local paper, I am programmed to be on the look out for errant capitals, and it seems there are plenty of them about.

This van made me particularly angry recently; so much so that a large part of me wanted to call them and complain.*  It would be extremely difficult to squeeze more capital letters onto the back of one vehicle. 

(Also, what is a LOLER examination? It sounds fun.)

Overuse of capitals

This post is a message to all of you who think that just because a word sounds like it might be a little bit important in the context of a sentence, that it should be capitalised.

It should not.

It’s for anyone who believes that titles, bullet points or anything else like that are actually so important that they should be jam packed with capital letters.

They should not.

Seriously, get a grip.

Capital letters should be used at the beginning of sentences, for the word I, at the beginnings of places or people’s names, and in a few other circumstances such as book titles and acronyms. The rest of the time you should keep your finger off the shift key.

I do of course sometimes use capital letters in the middle of a sentence, but I do it in a Winnie the Pooh sort of a way. I might say for instance that I had a gin and tonic for lunch and that it probably wasn’t a Terribly Good Idea. This is OK. This is a joke. If I wrote that I had a Gin and Tonic for lunch, simply because those words are nouns, then I would have to kick myself hard in the shin.

Am I alone in this? How do you feel about the overuse of capital letters?

*I was stopped, hand brake on, in a traffic jam when I took this, not driving along at 70mph fuming about grammar, swerving around like a mad woman with a camera.

42 Comments

    • admin 14 January, 2014 / 3:24 pm

      Grrrr….

  1. Laura
    Twitter:
    14 January, 2014 / 1:00 pm

    I share your annoyance. Overuse of capitals drives me crazy, especially when people insist on using capital letters just because it makes the word (usually a plain old noun) look more important. Grrrrr.
    Laura recently posted…Perks of parenthoodMy Profile

    • admin 14 January, 2014 / 3:27 pm

      Ergh, yes! It’s like ‘but this is my product, so it is very important and must have a capital!’ Gross.

  2. Nicky Richards 14 January, 2014 / 1:07 pm

    You Are Hilarious!!! I LOVE your short rants. X

    • admin 14 January, 2014 / 3:26 pm

      Thank You Very Much :-)

  3. Tim 14 January, 2014 / 1:09 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. It’s one of my pet peeves too. Below the misuse of apostrophes, but not that far below.
    Tim recently posted…In at the deep endMy Profile

    • admin 14 January, 2014 / 2:00 pm

      Don’t even get me started…

  4. Kathie Auton 14 January, 2014 / 1:11 pm

    What about recipe names? I have a habit of using capitals for these, such as Happiness Pie – being the name of the recipe does it make it a proper noun and befitting to use capitals or is this bad and wrong?

    • admin 14 January, 2014 / 2:00 pm

      I’m not sure it’s OK Kathie… I just had a quick look on the BBC website and none of their recipe titles are capitalised. I’m sure you’d know better than me though – I only did English to GCSE!

      • Kathie Auton 14 January, 2014 / 7:55 pm

        My extensive research* shows me that it is a debatable point and is down to ‘house style’. Technical arguments for both in this case – proper nouns versus plain wrongness. I think I shall take the view that it depends if the dish seems to deserve it :). If I ever do make a Happiness Pie, I shall capitalise it.

        * 5 mins on google.
        Kathie Auton recently posted…Dressingless salad dressingMy Profile

        • admin 15 January, 2014 / 9:15 am

          I think that’s a good way to look at it :-)

    • admin 14 January, 2014 / 1:58 pm

      Now see this is an American site, and I think they tend to go a bit crazier with capitals than we do. If you look at any headline in any UK newspaper it won’t be capitalised.

        • admin 14 January, 2014 / 3:27 pm

          You’ll be capitaliZing all sorts of things before you know it 😉

  5. Pat Stubbs 14 January, 2014 / 1:20 pm

    LOLER stands for
    Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations

    equipment has to be inspected to ensure its safety hence the qualification to do LOLER inspections. Captals seem OK when they stand for initials

    • admin 14 January, 2014 / 1:58 pm

      Well there you go, you learn something new every day! Capitals in acronyms is fine – I will let them have that one :-)

    • admin 14 January, 2014 / 3:26 pm

      Who’d have thought that TWO of my readers would know that??!

  6. Alison 14 January, 2014 / 2:54 pm

    Hmm apparently there is a title case for titles, where you use capitals for principal words and not prepositions, articles or conjunctions unless they are the first word. ie the big words and not the little words. I must admit I do this, but maybe I use to many in titles.
    Alison recently posted…Cock-a-leekie SoupMy Profile

    • admin 14 January, 2014 / 3:25 pm

      I think perhaps the rules vary depending on where you look, especially UK versus US. It’s probaby my years of working at a newspaper – if you look in any UK newspapers then none of the headlines are in capitals.

  7. Mandy Cochrane 14 January, 2014 / 5:27 pm

    Totally get you. I’ve been editing a local community webzine for a few years now, Wincanton WIndow. Pretty much all the articles are sent in by readers and by far the most irritating task for me is to uncapitalise them! Completely random capital letters used on nouns in the middle of a sentence.

  8. Amy 14 January, 2014 / 6:28 pm

    Couldn’t agree with you more…I’ve often wondered why people add capitals in randomly, it’s just wrong. They don’t belong there! Doesn’t annoy me as much as seeing apostrophes in the wrong place, though. Poor, poor, misused apostrophes.

  9. Mummy's to do list 14 January, 2014 / 6:45 pm

    Totally agree. There are very few situations when additional capital letters are warranted. I constantly battle against this at work, along with use of multiple exclamation marks. I’m publications editor at a charity and some people, if they had their way, deem the word ‘charity’ itself to be worthy of constant capitalisation. Drives me nuts!

  10. Purplemum
    Twitter:
    14 January, 2014 / 8:48 pm

    I struggle with titles. Overall I don’t think I overuse capitals but titles scare me, I’m not sure which words should be capitalised so I panic and do them all. Help me oh wise one!
    Purplemum recently posted…Anger ManagementMy Profile

  11. Sarah 14 January, 2014 / 8:59 pm

    I Think You Should a Get A Life And Live It!

  12. Kenneth Norman Bladon 14 January, 2014 / 11:55 pm

    Misuse of capitals is one of my pet hates, too. If you want to capitalize every noun, write in German. It’s probably worth commenting that the French do not capitalize “français”, even though they are the most shouty nation in Europe about purity of language.

  13. Julie Roo
    Twitter:
    15 January, 2014 / 9:41 am

    Oh heck, I capitalise every blog title line I write. As someone else mentioned “title font” or similar…. I was taught to do this at school. Not good. I will try to remember to stop doing it.
    Julie Roo recently posted…It’s Over #MySundayPhotoMy Profile

  14. Rita Black 15 January, 2014 / 9:58 am

    Loved reading this! I completely agree with you.

  15. Momma of Mojo 15 January, 2014 / 2:30 pm

    I am an over user of everything. Exclamations, capitals, hyphens and so on. I get carried away and begin to type like Nicholas Cage’s acting – vile, hammy and frankly a little bit too much.

    I agree with you, I really do. My hands just won’t let me do the right thing…
    Momma of Mojo recently posted…Hypos and Hospitals. 37 weeks and counting…My Profile

  16. Lisa 15 January, 2014 / 3:07 pm

    Hehe, snigger snigger…Great post! I am a bit of a grammar freak too much to the annoyance of ‘the teens’. I am, though, an avid user of exclamation marks and no matter how hard I try – I just can’t seem to stop!!!!!!! My mother-in-law is the same and we tend to have what my husband calls – email battles – to see who can be the most shoutier with the !!!!’s Oh well…it’s not as bad as ‘could of, should of, would of’…now a red mist has descended upon me. Lisa xx

  17. Ads 15 January, 2014 / 4:00 pm

    I’m a copywriter and I do like to capitalise nouns in titles – but I think this stems from the fact I studied German at uni, where they capitalise EVERY (…sorry) noun.

    I guess we all have our own pet peeves, preferences and styles! :-)
    Ads recently posted…A Moving ExperienceMy Profile

  18. Peter 16 January, 2014 / 4:21 pm

    People are more likely to read the headline if capitalisation is used on each word. I’d say they’ve chosen to use capitals with this in mind.

  19. Tommo 16 January, 2014 / 4:42 pm

    I do feel that perhaps this is an in built hang over of the english language from german as they capitalise all nouns?

  20. Nickie 17 January, 2014 / 1:29 pm

    Titles in capitals only.

    However I do have to stop myself from punching the screen When I See People Use Capitals Like This In Normal Text Or EvEn CaPiTaLiSe EvErY oThEr LeTtEr.

  21. YouBabyMeMummy
    Twitter:
    17 January, 2014 / 1:41 pm

    Oh I am guilty of this, I capitalise all words in my titles. Basically because I did at the start and wanted to keep the look the same. Can’t say it bothers me though…..
    YouBabyMeMummy recently posted…Word Of The Week -1 #WotWMy Profile

  22. Suze 17 January, 2014 / 1:46 pm

    Do YoU rEmEmBeR tHe CrAzE fOr DoInG tHiS?
    I actually can’t bring myself to do it anymore. It also takes ages!
    Suze recently posted…Speech and language therapyMy Profile

  23. Ben
    Twitter:
    26 May, 2014 / 10:05 pm

    YES! (Whoops!) I hate this with a passion. And those article headlines which are everywhere these days which read something like: ‘This Cat Just Played The Trombone. What Happens Next Amazed Me.’
    Ben recently posted…I’ve got The PowerMy Profile

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