Why don’t Gen Z use capital letters?

Yes, according to Gen Z…
Title case versus sentence case is an age-old copy battle, but for Gen Z it’s all about what’s cool. And apparently, capital letters are not.

Why are capital letters cringe?

TikTok creator Antoni Bumba told Bustle that “it used to be an aesthetic thing, dating back to the Tumblr days, but now it’s just the standard for texting because it’s casual.

“Using proper capitalization is just aggressive. Gen Z is really sensitive and when people capitalize the start of sentences it creates a strict tone of voice, and it’s like, ‘Whoa, why are you screaming?’”

From texts to Instagram captions and even song titles, Gen Z have made capital letters redundant. For someone (a Millennial, no less) who’s spent their working life trying to enforce sentence casing in UX copy, this puts me in a confusing limbo…

Casing in UX copy

In UX, even the tiniest changes can have a big impact on readability – the holy grail of UX copy. After all, any copy that isn’t readable is basically useless. 

I’ve always been a big fan of sentence case – in general copy, but especially in UX. Beyond my personal bugbears, there’s a real UX theory that title case is harder to read.

Psychologist Kevin Larson sums up the science of word recognition. He reiterates that Woodworth’s Experimental Psychology in 1938 found that lowercase is faster to read than uppercase. Smith’s Psychonomic Science (1969) and Fisher’s Memory and Cognition (1975) also found that lowercase is reliably read 5-10% faster.

Basically, what these psychologists and typographers were discovering is that most people are better at reading lowercase copy because they see it most often. 

Lowercase copy fails

But title case can definitely come in useful.

My favourite example of brands getting it wrong is Susan Boyle’s album launch from way back in 2007. This scandal saw #susanalbumparty unleashed on Twitter. Lack of capitalisation and an unfortunate missing ‘s’ meant the innocent hashtag was hijacked as #Su’sAnalBumParty. This was delightedly bandied about social media while poor Susan was left the butt (pun intended) of some very rude jokes.

What about SEO?

SEO is a different beast when it comes to sentence/title casing.

Let’s defer to SEO experts Semrush. They split tested sentence case and title case title tags to see which is actually best for SEO copy. The test website they chose used title case consistently, so they changed 70 article pages to sentence case to see if this impacted organic traffic (CTR). After 28 days they saw a 2.4% decrease in organic clicks to the tested pages. 

In layman’s terms, this means that while title case doesn’t affect search ranking, it does affect click-throughs. When you’re competing with other search results, your tags need to be easily readable because it’s too easy for users to choose another search result.

Know your audience

So, what should we do about capital letters? It really comes down to knowing your audience. 

If you work for a traditional insurance company with a legacy roster of business customers, title case is 100% a requirement. You want to add authority to your copy and products/services in a way that resonates with your audience. 

On the flip side, if you’re a tech start-up aimed at Gen Z, title case could be a killer. You need to get on your young audience’s level and earn respect by acknowledging and embracing the way they talk and live their lives. You basically need to act as their friend – if you sound like someone they’d WhatsApp, you’re more likely to be on to a winner.

Want to learn more about your Gen Z audience?

Our data and insights team love finding what makes our clients audiences’ tick. Get in touch today to find out if we can help your brand make new and lasting connections with your audience.

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