Good marketing copy: to capitalise, or not to capitalise?

Anyone who has worked with me will know I spend a lot of time creating powerful marketing messages. One of my biggest bugbears in copy is the overuse of capitals or Title Case. There is a trend in business writing to turn words into capitals, making the word sound ever so important.

The problem is, it doesn’t. It also isn’t grammatically correct. What’s worse, it makes it much harder to digest the information. With so much noise in the marketplace, it is essential that your customers can quickly and easily digest your marketing message. If not, you may well lose them. So please, no more capitals.

So your headings should not be in capitals. Those products that aren’t really products, they shouldn’t be in title case, departments definitely not, anything you are trying to make seem important, please beware. Unless it’s a proper noun, place or person it shouldn’t be in capitals. If you are just not sure leave the capitals out.

Here’s what the most influential newspapers say about the overuse of capital letters.

Financial Times

The FT believes that the fewer capital letters we use the better. Places and organisations begin with a capital; personal titles generally do not. When in doubt, use lower case unless the result looks silly or is confusing.

The Times

Capitalisation is the source of great tribulation. Please adhere to the following guidance. Too many capital letters are ugly. Capitals interrupt the passage of the eye along a line. They are often unnecessary, especially with non-proper nouns such as government or ministry. Struggle to avoid them unless to do so looks absurd. If in doubt use lower case. In general, the proper names of people, their formal titles and names of well-known and substantial institutions require titles.

The Economist

A balance has to be struck between so many capitals that that eyes dance and so few that the reader is diverted more by our style than by our substance. The general rule is to dignify with capital letters organisations and institutions, but not people. More exact rules are laid out below. Even these, however, leave some decisions to individual judgement. If in doubt use lower case unless it looks absurd. And remember that ‘a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds’ (Emerson).

Happy copywriting.