When we read a written word, it activates a voice that speaks the word within the reader’s head. A critical factor in determining how effectively we communicate is the tone with which that inner voice speaks. The way that text is formatted can often influence the tone. The mistakes I’m going to describe below are ones I see almost every day.
Using capital letters can be effective, if used sparingly. Take the following example:
President Nolan orders ALL TECHNICIANS to follow his company page.
Effective use of caps here. The tone is informative and conveys a sense or urgency without coming off as abrasive.
You could even write it like this:
President Nolan orders all technicians to FOLLOW HIS COMPANY PAGE.
Now, consider if it had been written this way instead:
PRESIDENT NOLAN ORDERS ALL TECHNICIANS TO FOLLOW HIS COMPANY PAGE.
When I read that, I feel as if I’m being yelled at. My inner voice is booming here. It wasn’t necessary to overcapitalize every single word to get a point across in an authoritative way. In fact, capitalizing all of them effectively emphasizes nothing. The tone is overly in your face and in fact it puts me off. This makes a negative impression and should be avoided unless you are intentionally trying to offend the reader.
The take away here is that if you’re trying to get people’s attention, be selective about using capital letters, underline, bold, and italics. Everyday I see resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn pages, website content, and blogs that are overly decorated to the point of overkill. Less is more, folks. Think twice and please email me if you think your piece falls into this category. It’s email@example.com.