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Community Member

Research Reasons for Avoiding All Caps

I have a faculty member who puts all Assignment, Discussion, and Content Page titles in all caps. In terms of netiquette, this is discouraged. I find it personally distracting and more difficult to read (maybe trying to focus on too much at one time??), but I cannot find any adequately cited resources that provide convincing arguments regarding best practice. Can anyone help me out? 

Thanks!!

50 Replies
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Surveyor

cfelton, other than the obvious netiquette reasons, I'm not sure if I've every seen academic research on this topic. I've shared your post with the Canvas Admins and Q & A groups to see if they can help, as well as on Twitter. I'm really looking forward to seeing if there's any research out there on this! 

Kona

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Community Member

I did a little search and found this: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2016788/   

It concludes that because all caps makes the actual size of text bigger, it improves legibility for folks w/ low vision, or when text is small. 

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Community Member

This is a style question, not "best practices," and not netiquette -- and there are multiple title styles out there, without even agreement among the main style guides, esp. re: long prepositions like "between" ... this little tool has a fun 'explanations' option that tells why the title is formatted the way it is in different styles:

Title Case Converter: A Smart Title Capitalization Tool 

I really don't see any kind of problem with all caps as a way to emphasize titles, much in the same way that web styles have larger fonts / bolded fonts etc. for titles and headers. Yes, all-caps cab be harder to read if you are talking about a long chunk of text (because it minimizes shape differences among letters), but titles are not long, so the readability argument would not apply.

What would be good practice in this regard is consistency: if the faculty member is consistently sending the message of THIS IS IMPORTANT by all-caps for all titles, that sounds very do-able, and even potentially useful. Perhaps even attention-getting because it is unusual. 🙂

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Explorer

I think I would be happy the faculty is using the LMS, and knows enough to make content titles stand out for the students.

Even after 30 years, netiquette/etiquette  are not rules, just guidelines. If his reasons are valid, I don't see why anyone should care - readability and navigation seem reasons enough for me.

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Community Member

I haven't looked up case-specific things, but I might argue that since connotation of all caps is yelling, that students may feel uncomfortable or hostile with all caps titles. Garrison/COI is the closest I could think of that may apply: Description: Social Presence | CoI  

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Community Member

And traditional title capitalization style is kind-of-yelling, ha ha. Because Title Capitalization Style is Weird When You Think About It. 🙂

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Learner II

If we're strictly talking about typography, formatting a document, and more specifically a web document, then using all caps is perfectly acceptable for the title of a document or a web page.

The title of a web page should be at the top and stand out and provide meaning. For the Web and HTML, this is usually done once on the page using the H1 Section Heading | MDN, adjusting the weight of the font, adding a background and many other ways to bring it emphasis.

In Canvas that usually looks like this

Research Reasons for Avoiding All Caps

RESEARCH REASONS FOR AVOIDING ALL CAPS

Since Canvas places the title in the page for us, what really becomes important is the format of the entire document (the page currently in view), and all text, images, and elements that are displayed appropriately provide good meaning and importance to the content. Such as appropriate headings based on the hierarchy and relationships of content. Then there is consistency and uniformity.

Consistency

The instructor should make sure that use of all caps for the titles is consistent across their entire course, or at least document types; pages, assignments, modules, discussions, can all be cased differently as long as they are consistent within the group.

Consistency has it's own issues, depending on how the teacher or the school sets up titles throughout Canvas.

All Caps Becomes Much More - Ch1

DIFFICULT - TO DISTINGUISH - M2.1

M1:L1 WHEN | YOU TRY TO SEPARATE MEANING

Uniformity

It may be good practice for the school to set best practices and create a style guide. Whether anyone uses all caps or not then becomes a discussion of readability, accessibility and how students and screen readers might interpret differences in text and HTML. If these things aren't important then...

Uniformity has issues too. :smileycool:

IMHO

How it appears on the page and whether it's readable on all screen sizes, devices, browsers, and the mobile apps is the most important. The standards for typography, formatting documents, and the web's guidelines will outlast the preferences of any one of it's users, so we should probably focus on making our content easy for the student and easily manageable and deployable for ourselves.

more:

All caps | Butterick’s Practical Typography 

All caps | Typography for Lawyers 

All caps - Wikipedia 

http://typographyhandbook.com/ - see Visual Hierarchy and Law of Proximity

Fundamental text and font styling - Learn web development | MDN

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Learner II

It's shouting. Netiquette of Capitalization: How Caps Became Code for Yelling | The New Republic  

Never enjoyed reading all caps. Good luck. 

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Community Member

Caps are code for yelling in written speech... but titles are not written speech; they are labels. That's why titles often have a different font, different style, different size from other text on a webpage. And there are lots of web style themes which use uppercase for style purposes. That's because sometimes text on a webpage is really like a label; not like written speech, not a declarative statement.

Just an example: I don't feel shouted at by the capitalized text in this screenshot because the bits in all-caps are labels. Having them be in all-caps helps clarify that they are labels. 

screenshot of Enfold theme

And I'm guessing the web style people at a site like the New York Times engage in long discussions about just what fonts and styles and colors and capitalization to use... resulting in quite a hodge-podge here at the top of that page. I could never be a web designer myself: so many details to ponder!

New York Times screenshot