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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!!

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One little tip just popped to mind. When I worked for a book publishing house (all those years ago now), if we did set material in all caps, we used to pop a double-space between all of the words to help alleviate the impression that the words were running together into a "blob" of text.

TITLE OF THE BOOK

TITLE  OF  THE  BOOK

It's not a big thing, but some may find it useful.

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Community Member

Somewhere in the depths of my home office, or perhaps in my school one, I have a little book, based on research, that talks about all sorts of aspects of typography. I can't even remember what it's called (something like Communicating, Not Making Pretty Shapes. The author measured the comprehension rates among groups reading all sorts of text types, such as serif versus sans serif, caps versus upper and lower case, white on black versus black on white, and on and on it goes. He concluded, if I remember correctly, that there is a penalty on comprehension of blocks of text written in all caps, which we should best save for small bursts. I'd love to have the book here to be able to supply you with a quote and the figures. If I find it later, I might scan the relevant section and add it as a reply to this post.

Reading through this fascinating thread, I can see good points on both sides. I fall somewhere in the middle. For headlines and BRIEF points of emphasis, caps can be a boon. For anything more than a few words, though, they become more difficult to read and comprehend, and we can lose our readers. I feel it's easier to differentiate between words in upper and lower case, and our letters have been designed that way, with ascenders and descenders and all.

Thanks for an entertaining and informative discussion, everyone. Cheers!

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Maybe relevant, didn't know where else to share. You See Less Than You Think - WSJ 

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Just because this book isn't in your library system doesn't mean they won't inter-library loan it for you.  I suggest you find a librarian & ask if you have access to this type of service.

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Community Member

I found an e-book, that I have access to, called Typography Essentials : 100 Design Principles by Ina Salz (Rockport, 2009) which states at the beginning of Chapter 42 :

Uppercase and lowercase letters (so called because they were kept in separate drawers of the typographer’s “case,” or cabinet) have distinct purposes. Capital letters, as they are also known, speak loudly, while small letters are quieter. Again, everything is relative; very lightweight uppercase letters in a simple sans serif might speak more quietly than a chunky slab serif lowercase. Everything depends on proportion and the mix.

APA (American Psychological Assoc.)
Saltz, I. (2009). Typography Essentials : 100 Design Principles for Working with Type. Beverly, Mass: Rockport Publishers.

I thought this was interesting and may apply.   Keith Slade, SLCC

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The key lesson of this study is the importance of the size of the text. Note that they say that any advantage of ALL CAPS disappears when the lower case is larger - which is should be anyway for readability. It could be rephrased as saying that until you reach a certain threshold in size, increasing the size of text by making it ALL CAPS is beneficial. After that it disappears.

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I agree about the monotony. Somewhere between 2016 and 2017 the way modules were to be put together changed and I don't like it at all. And it seems much more labor intensive which I like even less.

In fact, based on my desire to create image galleries (I teach art history), I am using a pair of padlet walls in each module rather than linking stuff directly to the module. To see the images I want them to learn that week, students hit a link and a padlet wall comes up with a neat array of images I have fully identified. For readings they hit a link for another padlet wall with "shelves" for required reading, videos and other resources.  Assignments (essays, quizzes, etc.) are linked per usual. But there is something about this 2017 format that is just getting my goat.

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I had actually been thinking about the role of titles on Canvas Pages, and not even about Modules, so it was very helpful to have that clarified here.

And it's yet another dilemma: the title in the context of a Canvas Page is playing a different role than the title in the context of the Module listing. I use a lot of Canvas Pages, but Modules not so much, which is why I was thinking about the role of the title on a Page. 

So, when typing a title, I guess we have to remember that it is going to be used for different purposes in different contexts.

Design: it's not easy! 🙂

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Learner II

I wanted to weigh in on this, because I do think that using caps judiciously can be visually effective. I probably would NOT use all caps for the titles of assignments and pages, but I do think it helps to make text headers distinguishable from other content in a module.

Here's an example:

image of a module with text headers in caps

That's just my two cents.

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One thing that this conversation reaffirms for me is never to assume what other people are experiencing or where they are coming from.  My own, probably mis, conception comes from my own experience that the only person I know who types in all caps is my father who came late to IT and the Internet in general and is a digital immigrant at best.  I realized reading through this thread that when I see all caps text one of the assumptions that I make is that the person who wrote it may be an older person or someone not cognizant of netiquette - a stereotype in other words.