When to use capital letters, and when not to
Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Love them or hate them, capital letters have their purpose. But increasingly, people are using them in the wrong places and as a copywriter, that grates. Whilst some instances are considered subjective, there are certain rules to follow. Does it matter? Well, I think so. It makes your copy far more credible and therefore, effective. Here’s some guidance.
Understanding proper nouns
A (very) quick trip back to your English lessons would tell you that proper nouns are specific names for something: Mark, London, Costa, Bristol University. These are all proper nouns and require a capital letter at the start.
What about general nouns? Examples would be university, manager, city. No capitals please!
“We’re going to the university open day.” Correct.
“We’re going to the open day at Bristol University.” Correct.
Once in a while, you get a proper noun that starts with a lower-case letter. iPhone and eBay would be perfect examples.
Capitals in titles
This always causes some confusion. Strictly speaking, the important words within a title should start with a capital letter:
How to Develop your Business
That said, many copywriters feel this method is a little out of fashion and there is a tendency to write titles in sentence case:
How to develop your business
Which to choose? That’s up to you. But be consistent! I would recommend that you avoid the following two formats:
How To Develop Your Business
(It’s just wrong to me)
HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR BUSINESS
(Do you want to shout at me?)
When to use ALL capitals
If you choose to write entirely in capitals (we’re talking in type here), consider that you’re shouting at your reader. Do you want to? Probably not.
In fact, email etiquette would suggest that it’s positively rude to write entirely in capitals. Just don’t go there.
There are times of course, when a word written entirely in capitals provides emphasis; like my sub-heading above. As a general rule, less is more.
Not sure what they are? Think: BBC, IoT, UK. In most instances, each word requires a capital letter. But there are exceptions as I’ve demonstrated.
IoT: Internet of Things. Because ‘of’ is a minor word, it’s kept in lower case - even in the acronym.
If you’re not sure, take to Google, it will probably throw up the answer for you.
So, there we are. Capital letters have their place. But overuse and misuse will damage your credibility as much as ‘typos’ do. It’s just one more reason why businesses turn to freelance copywriters. If you’d like to turn to me, I’d be very happy to hear from you.