Does Capitalization Matter?

YES IT DOES. (Stop yelling.)

web content capitalizationWords get the job done, whether you are selling a product, promoting a service, fundraising for a cause, providing information or sharing your opinion. Sure, you can post a gorgeous photo of your new lamp design and those people who stumble across it will be amazed at its unparalleled “lamposity.” You pretty much need words and numbers, however, to explain what this lamp is, how it works, who sells it, where to buy it and how much it costs.

OK, that’s all well and good. Everyone agrees. Words translate into online power through search engine optimization (SEO), but Google also doesn’t care whether those words are capitalized. Search engines don’t particularly care if you spelled the word right, thanks to auto correct. True, search engines don’t care, but the website user does. I’m not talking about just a user of the products or services on your site. I’m talking about a user of the words on your website.

Usability Breeds Understanding

The greatest gift you can give someone visiting your website is usability. That includes how easy it is to find things on the page, how fast the site loads, its visual appeal, whether it’s clickable elements are logical, etc. But content also affects usability. It can make your online visitor happy, confused, or angry – usually in that order. There are many ways content does this, and, believe me, I will get to a lot of those ways in future blog posts! For now, let’s just start with capitalization. Not Capitalization OR CAPITALIZATION, just capitalization. Internet users do not have to be grammar nerds to care about capitalization errors in content. They often don’t even know why content annoys them. But it does, and this affects the way they use (or respond to) your website. Here are just a few key capitalization errors to watch out for in web content.

4 Capitalization Errors That Make You Look Bad Online

Carnival Barker Syndrome – When you walk around at a fair, your senses are overloaded with lights, smells, tastes, and sounds. It’s fun the first time you walk past the coin toss booth with a guy yelling, “STEP RIGHT UP! WIN the lady a PRIZE! Only FIVE DOLLARS for three shots!” The second, third and 14th time you get yelled at, however, makes you uncomfortable. You walk quickly away, or you may get angry and yell back. You end up with no prize and possibly a black eye. Whether they realize it or not, visitors to your website encounter similar feelings of discomfort when your content KEEPS YELLING AT THEM. Unless your goal is to create a corporate image that says “angry carnie” it’s better to simply convey your message in lowercase. Bold, italic or color text are much more visually appealing methods to add emphasis.

Mad Men Online – Although a word is still spelled correctly, incorrect capitalization can change the implied meaning. Advertising copywriters have made the jump into Internet marketing, and it shows. Suddenly, everything is a headline, even when it’s a simple sentence in a normal paragraph. For example, NOW You Are Reading My Words, but THE VOICE In Your Head Has the Deep Baritone of Morgan Freeman. In A World Where You Only Need Concise, Direct Information About a Product, You Suddenly Have Stilted Pomposity. Sure, your user gets the information, but they also get the feeling you are trying a little too hard. Negative perception achieved!

Sentence or Billboard? Pick One – I admit, this is my pet peeve. It bugs me when I see something that appears to be the headline of a news article or the title of a book, all bold and important looking, but then it just sits there with only the first word capitalized. OK, this must be a sentence, my brain tells me. Then, I get to the end of the line of bold content and there is no punctuation, or sometimes not even a verb. I may understand the meaning of the content, but I am annoyed. I think the person/company writing the content is uneducated, sloppy or both. Why should I trust them to fix my lamp?

The Royal Me – Capital letters usually indicate something important, like the beginning of a sentence or someone’s name. Unfortunately, for many web content writers, this suggests, “If I capitalize something, that makes it more important!” Misuse of capitalization can create confusion, which may ultimately cause your website’s user to form a negative opinion of you or your product. For example, when you tell me the details of that wonderful lamp you designed, it’s not better to call it a Lamp every time you mention it. Your lamp is only a Lamp if you have trademarked Lamp™ as its brand name. And your’s is not the Best Lamp Company in Kansas City, unless the name of your company is actually Best Lamp Co. Your business partner Bob is not a Lamp Repair Specialist, unless that title is related to a specific industry certification test that Bob passed with flying colors. Even if he’s president of Best Lamp Company, it’s better not to refer to him as President Bob in a sentence (unless the P starts a sentence). That capitalized title is reserved for presidents of nations. The reader/user gets the wrong idea about Bob’s overblown ego and may decide not to vote for him in the next election.

There are so may ways to make mistakes with web content. Spelling errors and erroneous information are biggies. Capitalization often gets overlooked because its effects are so subtle. If Google doesn’t care if it’s capitalized, why should we? You might not, but Internet marketing professionals must care, because accuracy adds quality, and better quality content builds more effective websites.

Want users to stay on your website and actually use it? Do your best not to YELL AT PEOPLE, appear slOppy, misrepresent Lamps as brands, or confuse helpful information with Pompous Hot Air. Sorry President Bob, go peddle your so-called Lamp at someone else’s carnival.

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