Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Pet Peeves: WRITING EMAILS IN ALL CAPS

By day I work in a high tech manufacturing firm as a electronics buyer.  Recently I received this email during my day job after asking the country of origin and date of manufacturer:

image

He’s a all-capper email writer!  An all-capper are those who always write in all caps!    Each time I read an all-caps email my brain is imaging this huge angry finger wagging parent screaming at my 5 year old self blamed for something my brother did.  My ego takes a hit and then I snap myself out of it.

Emails like this provokes emotions of negativity to the reader and does affect the productivity.  Instead of taking that email as, “he’ll get back to me when he an” and moving on to the next task; I paused, had the image and got annoyed.  Even made a note to self to write about why using all caps is a problem in the workplace.

There can be dire consequences for all-caps email

The common theme is that all-caps emails causes the reader to think you are shouting at them.

What is it with all caps email?  Why does it cause such a physiological negative response?

Don’t know any typographic experts so I asked around in my small circle of friends and co-workers.    Day to day emails are really a replacement for telephone calls before the invention of email in the workplace.  In reality they are a documented business conversation.  If it is conversation, then how you write replaces the intonations of your voice so the listener knows how you want to message to be received.

My non-scientific pool of geniuses came up with two conclusions:

  1. No one like to listen to shouters.
    • Take my image of angry parent to small child.  I’m probably in trouble.  You just shut down and wait for the yelling to be over so you can be on your way.  You are not listening and you don’t get the message.

  2. All-Cap emails are more difficult to read
    • Not sure the reason but lower case letters just seem more friendly to readers.  A friendly conversation, not having a one sided shouting match.

When should you use caps?

  • Using caps sparingly EMPHANIZES the point of the subject at hand. 
  • We’ve also seen this in legal to denote special importance.  I once had a supplier who found sample and made it clear that the parts comes with NO WARRANTY

So any of you who are all-cappers, how hard it is to hit that caps lock key?  Do you really want your customers put off just because it seems easier?

On a side note, the supplier in question is actually wonderful. Nicest guy in the world. However, when I first worked with him, I considered moving my business elsewhere just because of the all-caps habit. Lucky for him, his customer service won out.  No, I don’t ask him not to change his writing habit.  I really have bigger things to worry about in my day job.

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