Traditionally, we’re all taught to use capital letters (upper case) in titles and names (proper nouns), as well as at the start of sentences. And, most people write things in CAPS if they want to draw attention to it.
This is all very well in print – but capital letters just lose their appeal on the web because they’re hard to read.
However, this doesn’t mean we should ditch them – just cut down on their use in your web copywriting.
What’s the point of capital letters?
Capital letters are supposed to draw the eye to the start of something important. That’s why we should use them at the beginning of sentences and in names.
But overuse them and the web reader starts to get confused:
- Which bit is important?
- Is that a name?
- Why is that capped?
It’s especially confusing if your site has links and navigation on most of the pages – use too many caps, and your users won’t be sure what to click on next.
Capital letters also take longer to read than lower case – so Something Like This will take longer to read than something like this. And we all know how web users like to scan a page and get what they want quickly.
That’s why think we should use sentence case for all web content, including headings and links. Unless of course it’s a proper noun like Thomas Hallett – it’ll look odd otherwise. And we don’t want to upset the traditionalists too much!
I think we should also avoid using ALL UPPER CASE. Even for titles and section headings. Because:
1. IT DOESN’T LOOK VERY GOOD, and
2. IT’S HARDER TO READ (see?)
This is because we can tell what a word is by its shape. And capital letters don’t have a distinctive shape at the top and bottom – so they all look the same when you look at them quickly.
Some web writing gurus will say that using ALL CAPS for some content is ok. And after experimenting with title case text for the main navigation links on this website, I have to agree – the navigation (home, about me etc.) looks much better in caps. But it depends on the design of your site – I always recommend using sentence case where you can.
Using caps in page titles
Ok, I know it sounds like I hate caps. But I do have a habit of using Title Case in page titles (the bit right at the top of your web browser which uses the <title>tag in the source).
This is because this bit also appears on the search engine results pages and somebody once told me that using title case here can increase click-throughs from a search engine results page (SERP) ever so slightly.
Which reminds me, I must test that out…