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Online PR is something all companies should be doing, but too many PR professionals aren’t bothering to use the web in the right way. The rules have changed, people. And they’ve changed for some very good reasons…

You probably know by now that there's a huge opportunity to seed stories by distributing press releases online. And you’d be right. But too many press releases fall at the very first hurdle.

Can somebody please explain to me why we still receive press releases for online distribution that use CAPITALS FOR HEADLINES? Capitalisation Is Fine, But CAPS LOCK ISN’T.

There are five fairly obvious reasons for this:

1. CAPS LOCK REDUCES READABILITY. It’s true, reading speeds drop by about 10%. Why make things harder for time-pressured journalists?

2. CAPS LOCK IS SPAMMY (EMAIL). Think about email deliverability – we know that email spam software actively looks for CAPS LOCK, and if found, will reduce the chances of that email making it into the inbox. Many PR distribution services email journalists direct (charging you extra in the process). Deliverability matters.

3. CAPS LOCK IS SPAMMY (WEB). Yes, it is exactly the same online. Think about your CAPS LOCK headline triggering Google News filters. You won’t receive a better quality score from Google if you use capitals. But you might damage your prospects if you do. One common element among well-ranked stories is a healthy use of lower case.

4. CAPS LOCK IS THE ONLINE EQUIVALENT OF SHOUTING. Have you ever received an email from a super-annoyed customer? HAVE YOU? They tend to write in capitals to express displeasure. Turn down the noise, PR people. Your headline is more likely to be ignored if journalists think you’re barking it at them.

5. CAPS LOCK IS AN OFFLINE MYSTERY TOO. Whenever I email PR people to tell them to tone down their subject lines I normally ask why they capitalised it in the first place. Most cannot provide any sort of answer. Others say it is just a traditional offline way of doing things, which isn’t exactly a reason. Just a habit (a bad one… think about readability speeds…).

One senior PR said she thought it was something the New York Times introduced about half a century ago. The plot thickens. Can you clear up this mystery? Is it simply about taking up as much space as possible, and to hell with readability?

Now, the first thing I usually rip off a new keyboard is CAPS LOCK (the 'Insert' key typically follows shortly thereafter). So if you are currently working in PR or marketing I suggest you do the same, because nobody likes CAPS LOCK. And send us the pictures...

So that's it. Reform, ye shift key abusers!

Chris Lake

Published 14 June, 2006 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

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Andrew Denny

You seem to be confusing email subject lines with headlines.

I agree that subject lines are less readable when in all-caps, and the problem is worse when they are stacked, as in a list of emails.

However, within plain text (both onscreen and in print), where you can't use other kinds of emphasis, capitals in headlines are very useful for structuring a document, for both headings and sub-headings. Without the caps, a heading can look like an unfinished or illiterate sentence.

Incidentally, it's ironic that the Captcha code below this comments box is all in caps, the spacing is jammed together, and its very hard to read!

over 8 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

Hi Andrew,

Point taken on the Captcha - it's on our to-do list.

Are you talking about Headlines With Capitalisation Like This or HEADLINES WITH CAPS LOCK LEFT ON? At any rate note that I'm only referring to the delicate arts of PR here, rather than structuring documents / using sub-headings.

The whole point of this article is that PRs still USE CAPS LOCK FOR HEADLINES when there doesn't seem to be any positive reason for doing it.

In PR-land email subject lines are typically the same as the press release headline. They're one and the same thing. And as such CAPS LOCK is to be avoided, knowing what we know about email deliverability.

Cheers,

c.

over 8 years ago

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last chaos gold

Good post! I plan to move into this stuff after I’m done with school, as most of it is time consuming. It’s a great post to reference back to. My blog needs more time to gain in popularity anyway.

almost 7 years ago

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Samantha

I completely agree, whilst on a PR course I was informed that capitals in a headline are a no go.  not only does it make it harder to read (and with journalists reading our press releases we are on limited time already) it also implies you are shouting at someone. 

You can clearly make a headline standout but using bold and a bigger font.  Of course if there is a key word you want to highlight or shout about then use capitals or underline it.

over 6 years ago

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