How do you respond to e-mails, texts, Facebook posts and tweets in all-caps?
Do you feel you’re being yelled at? Or just someone trying to share their enthusiasm?
In the spirit of President Donald Trump’s frequent use of all-caps in his tweets, we reached out on social media and asked people how they respond to the practice.
But first, take a listen to the experts.
Matthew Butterick, a typographer who has written textbooks about the subject, says caps suggest screaming.
“MANY WRITERS STILL BELIEVE THAT CAPITALIZATION COMMUNICATES AUTHORITY AND IMPORTANCE,” he wrote on his Practical Typography blog. In fact, they’re harder to read, because we have experience reading words the normal way – with upper case and lower letters.
“If you need readers to pay attention to an important part of your document, the last thing you want is for them to skim over it,” he writes. “But that’s what inevitably happens with all-caps paragraphs because they’re so hard to read.”
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Karen North, a professor of social media at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication says she uses all-caps to make a point.
Using words with capital letters “calls attention to what I’m trying to get across,” she says. “People skip around and skim. So when I have something important to get across, I’ll use all caps.”
In digital communications, we lose the social cues in human conversation, like eye contact and tone of voice, so that when people read you digitally, they’re going on their perception of you as a person.
Because President Trump is often heated in his language, and angry, when he takes on critics, “His tweets could be perceived as yelling. It all depends on the interpretation,” said North.
A person known to be shy and mild-mannered using the same typing style could be seen as just being more excited than usual, she adds.
On our social media, we asked people how they respond to all-caps posts.
The two most common responses: stop yelling, and unsubscribe time.
“I scroll right on by anything in ALL CAPS … and if it looks deranged enough, I might pause for a moment to take the time to unfriend,” says New York photographer Neil van Niekerk.
“All caps catches attention when only some of it is in caps and some in lower case,” notes Mayloni Giles Mair, a craftmaker in Heber City, Utah.
Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter
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