LawProse Lesson # 89

LawProse Lesson # 89

When should all-caps text be used? ANSWER: When you need to emphasize particularly important information in text, all-caps will do the job, but you should never use all-caps for more than just a few words, as in a title: THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, for example, on a billboard. Less defensible is the quasi-shouting notice that says, “This product is sold AS IS, and comes with NO WARRANTY.” In dialogue or a quotation, a word or sentence in all-caps shows that the speaker’s tone was vehement or angry, or that the speaker is ranting: “I demand JUSTICE for the deceased! JUSTICE for the family! JUSTICE for the community!” But using all-caps for less-important speech dilutes its effectiveness. In a document with section headings, all-caps may help the headings stand out above the text, but only if the headings are short. For instance: CONDITIONS FOR PAROLE is easy to read. But THE STATE REQUIRES THE PETITIONER TO MEET FOUR CONDITIONS BEFORE PAROLE MAY BE GRANTED is not. And because good point headings in a brief often contain 15 to 35 words, all-caps text is highly inadvisable for them. Finally, all-caps is acceptable for acronyms and intialisms, such as NASA and SUV. But if the acronym or initialism is one that has become an ordinary word, then don’t use all-caps (as with radar and scuba). Source: The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style 64-65 (2d ed. 2006).

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