Tech Life Anyone can exclaim, not everyone can All Cap.

ALL CAPS Killed the Exclamation Point

That Fez article. Oy. It took four times longer than expected to write, but I’m happy with the result even though I feel once I pass the fourth page of writing that I’m violating some weblog brevity rule.

As I endlessly rewrote the article, I realized that I’ve fully embraced the ALL CAPS STANDARD as a means of conveying what is traditionally done with an exclamation point. A little search of my 200+ weblog entries shows that I vastly prefer ALL CAPS to the exclamation point.

Before I explain this grammatical fetish, let me first explain that All Caps gets a bad rap as a tool of boobs. I blame AOL users for this because it is generally known that they are the source of all Internet evil. In the early days of the AOL Internet invasion, AOL users were bumbling around Usenet, annoying the locals, and generally making a nuisance of themselves. One of their traits was the USE OF ALL CAPS IN MESSAGES DUE TO THE FACT THEY WERE TOO STUPID TO HIT THE CAPS LOCK.

In reality, AOL users aren’t stupid. They weren’t really using their keyboard much because AOL designers decided, as much as possible, their users should use the mouse because there were only two buttons on a mouse and, well, lots more buttons on the keyboard. Less buttons… less decisions… less errors… more satisfaction. When Usenet access showed up in AOL, I think of lots of users were regularly typing in complete sentences for the first time and so, of course, they forget about that darned CAPS LOCK key because they weren’t looking at what they were typing… they were staring at their keyboards.

Let’s not let the sins of the past taint the grammatical beauty that is All Caps.

Yes, All Caps is yelling, but it infinitely more.

First, All Caps is much more efficient than the exclamation point. Similar to foreign languages such as Spanish, All Caps alerts you to the mood change from the very first letter. You decide:

  • I like bread!
  • I LIKE BREAD

17 Responses

  1. Otis McGrover 12 years ago

    Best of both worlds is a little thing called ITALICS, though you presumably didn’t mention italics because they’re not available in every font/text format. They’re the original all caps.

    Also, long time listener first time caller.

  2. Otis Mcgrover 12 years ago

    Damn, missed that part about bold and underlines on my first read through somehow. Sorry.

  3. I follow the tracing of the ALL CAPS as exclamation point back to even the early, early writings of Tristan Farnon in your social group (Anarchy, Inc. days).

    Anarchy Inc.

    It seems to be pretty interesting how it’s all gone out. I just call the style “Farnon” and leave it at that. That’s the whole reason I started reading your writings in the first place, for more Farnon.

    HURRRF BURF WHAT DO YOU MEAN NO MENTIONING ANARCH INC OK LEAVING NOW NO REALLY OW OH GOD BITING CURB

  4. Y’know, you’re just capping a few words here and there, which I don’t think many people find to be too annoying. It’s illterate and execrable when somebody does whole sentences, which really does read like yelling instead of just emphasizing a word.

    I’m all about the initial exclamation and question mark from Spanish, by the way, and I import it into English at every available opportunity. Unfortunately, I don’t get enthused very often, so I don’t normally get the chance. I can’t wait for the day when it doesn’t look weird to English speakers.

    Finally, Strunk & White say that you shouldn’t be using any of these emphasis tools: your writing should indicate the emphasis, and if it doesn’t then you need to rewrite until it does. Maybe they’re just stodgy.

  5. Oh dear, Rands has run out ideas, folks. He

  6. Klaatu 12 years ago

    “All Caps sounds different in my head than an exclamation point. This probably comes from years of Jerkcity.”

    What you said-when I see something on the Internet written in allCaps, I imagine Duece yelling with his arms up , or Spigot pointing and yelling; however, I see Pants speaking in italics (for whatever strange reason).

  7. Strunk & White say lots of things. But you know what I say?

    NUTS TO THEM, I says. NUTS TO THEM.

  8. My own use of allcaps can be traced back directly to Jerkcity. It was the first place I’d run into it being used as a *mode of speech* rather than an *I’m too stupid to use lower-case letters* (only later on did I discover Leisure Town, the Rotten Library, etc.) I’m still unsure of whether ALLCAPS or HLUGBAGLHGALGH will be the Jerkcity fellows’ eternal contribution to the Internet lexicon, but I’m doing my damnedest to propagate both.

  9. People (including THE RANDS) have mentioned bold and underline and italics only briefly, but we’ve been dancing around this issue…capital letters do NOT really replace the exclamation point as MUCH as they replace what people USED to use ITALICS for (that is, STRESSING a word) but which is impossible to do in an ASCII environment….See what I mean?

  10. Phil Again 12 years ago

    OK, fine, so Otis kinda mentioned it, yeah.

  11. an interesting survey question would be,

  12. I really don’t understand why all the PASSIONATE HATRED towards all caps. It’s one more tool you can use to express yourself, and it’s all cool by me. People don’t bitch about the use of bold and italics nearly as much.

  13. Also, I don’t see a problem with doing the all caps thing with whole sentences and such. As long as it’s in a jokey way…

  14. I’ve enjoyed your use of caps for a long time, but you really have TWO flavors of usage. One, as has been noted, is when caps are used in place of either italics or an exclamation point. That’s pretty good because your intent and emphasis is immediately obvious.

    On the other hand, the usage I find entirely more amusing is when the caps represent first-person statements inserted into a second- or third-person narrative. To wit:

    Proper cash management sets the stage for a tremendous strip club experience. Knowing how much money you are planning to spend gives you the perfect reason to leave when 4am rolls around and you’ve fallen in love. SORRY SUZY I’M BROKE, SOBERING UP, AND YOU’RE GETTING UGLY.

    It’s like listening to my parents talk: Dad starts the story then Mom jumps in with semi-related details at the end of each phrase.

    Very funny.

  15. The more these articles make me laugh out loud, the more I realize that a primary reason for reading this blog regularly is for the CAPS-sarcasm/exclamation.

    The best part is once you’ve become used to the CAPS-sarcasm ‘convention’. The brain notices the words that are ahead in the sentence before the reader actually reads them.

    The effect being that when you get to sentence fragment that says “HOLY GOD, YOUR MOM HAS A GREAT RACK!” your brain has already deployed the auto-exclaim module and it’s plainly funny.

  16. I don’t think it’s quite the same as italics–there’s overlap, but lots of differences, too.

    I use italics for emphasis in a polite or serious way, or to identify foreign words. All Caps is for emphasis in an often cynical or sarcastic way, though it can be simple emphasis depending on the context.

    Ex.

    Valentine’s Day in Japan is very different: women give men chocolates.

    -but-

    I went out with my co-workers last night and I am STILL DRUNK.

    -note the overlap-

    In Japan, people are very generous and kind.

    =

    In Japan, people are VERY generous and kind.

    However the Vday example would sound different if the italics were changed to all caps, and the drunk example would just sound stupid.

    I suppose the thing I’ve seen people use that is similar to all caps is the pseudo underline using the _, as in People are _crazy_ here. But it really only works for one or two words.

  17. Apologies, my italics tags were gobbled up. Please read the words with i in parentheses as words in italics:

    Valentine’s Day in Japan is very different: (i)women(/i) give (i)men(/i) chocolates.

    -but-

    I went out with my co-workers last night and I am STILL DRUNK.

    -note the overlap-

    In Japan, people are (i)very(/i) generous and kind.

    =

    In Japan, people are VERY generous and kind.

    Thanks for writing interesting and thoughtful posts instead of useless crap that’s annoying, trite, or dull, Rands.