SHOUTING; emphasis?

Beth Simon simon at IPFW.EDU
Sun Sep 8 22:33:16 UTC 2002

why is capping an act of refusal to sub to microsoft? because one is
rebuffing the other stylistic options?

beth lee

beth lee simon
associate professor, linguistics and english
indiana university purdue university
v: 260 481 6761; f: 260 481 6985
e: simon at

>>> dave at WILTON.NET 09/08/02 05:09PM >>>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society
> [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
> Of RonButters at AOL.COM
> Sent: Sunday, September 08, 2002 1:14 PM

Yes, it's a recent convention, but that's because it is an *Internet*
convention. One can hardly expect an Internet convention to be much
I've found Usenet messages discussing the ALL CAPS = shouting practice
to 1990, but it could be somewhat older.

And as far as I know, it is not a fading convention. Although the
in HTML email has given people new options, like italics and different
fonts, the convention will likely remain alive and well as long as
there are
people who refuse to submit to the tyranny of Microsoft.

As for email being visual rather than aural, that is certainly obvious,
besides the point. Most internet communication is immediate (sort of),
a spoken conversation. Yet it lacks the tonal and bodily clues to the
speaker's state of mind that accompany spoken conversation. Hence the
for things like smileys and ALL CAPS MEAN SHOUTING. These generally
needed in traditional written communication because that is not
there is time for editing and revision to ensure that the proper tone

Perhaps a better way to state the ALL CAPS = shouting argument is that
it is
a common practice to use all caps in spam and flame emails. The
visual effect is to put people off and make them disinclined to read
you have to say in a favorable light (analogous to shouting at them in
spoken conversation). Mr. Mandel's reply to the original all caps email
be an example of precisely this (although I can only speculate what
state of mind was when he replied).

> Nor is the convention all that simple. In my experience, some
> people use all caps when they are interspersing their own
> responses with the material from previous e-mails that they
> are responding to. Makes it easier to pick out.

But all caps (or any unorthodox spelling and formatting style;
all-lower-case messages are just as bad) are difficult to read.
Actually a
better argument than "it means shouting" is that all caps puts an
burden on your audience. If you want people to read what you write, it
best to make it easy for them to do so. Besides, most email programs
use a
symbol (like the ">") to mark text in a reply. (I don't know of one
doesn't.) This is a much superior solution. It differentiates replies
the original (and can differentiate nested replies, which all caps
and keeps the text easy to read.

>(and among linguists, * is reserved for reconstructed forms and
> impossible utterances).

This is a good point and something to watch for, but I think the
opportunities for confusion are few and easily avoided.

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