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Capital offences – the case against initial capitals

23 September 2014

Are you Important? We mean, are you Really Important? Are you so Important that your Job Title needs to be laid out with Initial Capital Letters?

You are?

Well that’s great. But if you’re so Vitally Important, why not write your Job Title completely in CAPITAL LETTERS? Doesn’t that make you look Even More Important?

In fact, if you’re So Much More Important than anyone else, why not take to SHOUTING ALL THE TIME, USING ONLY CAPITAL LETTERS?

See? It’s really very silly, isn’t it? Very silly, and ultimately quite confusing.

Capital letters are there to start sentences. To begin direct quotations. To give the names for things. Y’know: proper nouns. The words that signal a place or person or day or month or nationality or specific branded object or, yes, your company’s trading name.

Even then, some firms insist on using lower case for their own names (you can probably blame the internet – note it doesn’t wear a capital I – for so much dreadfulness). Not that it makes it acceptable.

Acronyms and abbreviations are fine for capitalisation, as are particular regions, nationalities, the pronoun I and specific organisations (the Government for the current incumbent, and the government for the government in general. Much like Lincoln University and going to university).

Unfortunately, important though you undoubtedly are, your job title isn’t any of those things; it’s certainly not a proper noun – how could it be as important as your own name, after all? Using initial capital letters for non-unique nouns fell out of favour alongside Noah’s Ark. And when that ark of Noah’s became packed with zebras, tigers and Rhodesian Ridgebacks, those unnecessary caps were thankfully left to drown.

Likewise, random elements of your business aren’t proper nouns. You might supply brilliant BMWs to finance directors, and they may even be amazing M5s; but they’re certainly not High Performance Executive Saloons, as many a dealer would have you believe.

You may well sell stacks of lovely Apple iMacs, but you’re not flogging Desktop Computers (and, incidentally, please don’t get us started. Macs most certainly aren’t PCs, all right?).

Perhaps the worst culprits of all are estate agents (no, not Estate Agents), who love to capitalise everything from Bathrooms to Oak Style Flooring in Sought After Four-Bedroom Detached Houses in Popular Residential Areas. Estate agents: we like you. We really do. Spoon Media designs and manages websites for several wonderful estate agents, after all. But, on this occasion, the client isn’t always right. Leave those leading caps to your rivals, and you’ll look more professional. Your website’s viewers will also have a much easier time reading through property descriptions without stumbling over capitalised words. Now, doesn’t that make sense?

Talking of clients, we recently heard from a treasured client that a self-styled, so-called marketing consultant was encouraging the use of initial capitals throughout online marketing. To cap up the start of Important Words in a way to emphasise their relevance, in turn spattering our wonderfully-constructed e-commerce website with nasty market-stall-style sales patter. Well, if you want your promotional materials to look like you’re ancient or uneducated, you carry on pal. Knock yourself out.

But what’s the point in annoying and offending your readers? It’s easier and more pleasant to read a website that’s not peppered with random capital letters, and it’s only to avoid confusion that you should even consider making one word more important than the next. Keep initial capitals to a minimum.

The rules are easy to follow, and highlighted in everything from the Plain English Campaign to the Guardian’s style guide. Think about the following two sources, and you surely cannot argue.

The first is a simple quote by Kingsley Amis: “Use capitals as little as possible.”

The other’s origins are unknown, but paraphrased rather nicely by the Urban Dictionary. Without the correct use of capitals, the sentence I helped my Uncle Jack off a horse becomes I helped my uncle jack off a horse…


Posted by Dan.

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X Walter's Lincolnshire


Company profile

With Walter’s you’re right at home. Spoon Media’s theme for Lincoln estate agent Walter’s immediately lets you know you’re dealing with a company you can trust – in this case the longest-established estate agent in Lincoln.

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When you’re working with a successful brand that’s been around for longer than two centuries, you can’t take any chances. Which was why Spoon Media’s gentle rebranding and carefully tweaked logo were the perfect counterbalance to an all-new, ultra-clean website with full content management, SEO copywriting and property search facilities incorporating bespoke MySQL databases. Needless to say, Walter’s new customers came very quickly indeed.

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Quest-eeze is a one-stop country store, animal feed retailer and online equestrian shop. Based in Lincolnshire, Quest-eeze supplies everything for the pet owner, horse rider and farmer on a local or national level.

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Spoon Media loves animals even more than our Apple Mac computers, so Quest-eeze was a natural business partner. Picking up a part-started website and semi-established brand allowed us to make our own little mark on Lincolnshire’s loveliest pet shop, extending to a complete online shop with secure payments and delivery database.

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