Writing question -Reply

A. Vine avine at ENG.SUN.COM
Thu Nov 11 02:04:21 UTC 1999

Elizabeth Gregory wrote:
> In terms of typography, Colin Wheildon has done several studies on the effect of all-capitals versus capitals-and-lower-case (among many other variables, like serif versus sans-serif type, reversed type on a dark background, etc.) on readability and comprehension.
> He reports his findings in _Type and Layout_ (1996, Strathmoor Press).
> I'm not aware of similar research done for other media, such as computer screens, etc., or for handwriting.
> A quick synthesis of the theory of type, design, and readability I've read:
> For passages of text (as opposed to headings or headlines), anything that makes letters look more different from each other aids readability, by allowing words to be read more quickly and easily.
> In all-caps, all the letters are basically the same shape (a large square), so an important means of differentiation is lost. Each letter must be recognized individually, so reading becomes slower and more tedious.

Thanks very much, Elizabeth.  I'll take a look.

One of the points I'd like to make and back up with research is the
capitalization of words which don't require it.  Admittedly, English has vague
capitalization rules when it comes to software interfaces, but people
(especially those whose English is not native) tend to capitalize everything but
conjunctions and pronouns.  I maintain that this makes for a user interface
which is more difficult to read.

This may be a function of what meaning English readers normally assign to a
capitalized word.  At least this is my belief, based on my own reaction.  I stop
at a capitalized word because I expect it to be less familiar or require more
processing, like a place name, or the name of a person.


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