capital letters? we choose soft and sweet over loud and obnoxious – any time

originally, our latin alphabet was only made of capital letters. that was the time when words were mostly carved into stones, which made capital letters more convenient to chisel. the more people learned how to write on paper and the more it became one of our main ways of communicating, the more we needed letters that could be attached to each other to allow for a more fluid writing – introducing the very handy lowercased cursive letters. as we were mostly writing by hand, using capital letters at the beginning of sentences was also needed as the dots were not always clear enough or visible to mark the end of a sentence – have you ever tried writing with a goose feather?

nowadays, different languages using the same alphabet have different ways of regulating how, where and when to use capital letters. american english tends to use them – according to me – excessively. probably in line with the concept of “bigger is better” (just looking at how many people drive a huge pickup or even a hummer, alone, in busy cities). being a native french speaker from a tiny country – Belgium, I come from a more modest culture where greatness in not seen in size. Belgium, together with the Netherlands and Luxembourg (even smaller than Belgium), started through empathy and diplomacy what has now become the European Union. see? size doesn’t mean you can’t matter. and in belgian french, we tend to use capital letters much less. things like months, days, nationalities or languages don’t get capitalized in french. some other alphabets don’t even have the concept of capital letters. when you think of it, why should size define the importance of something? shouldn’t its meaning be more prominent for this?

and so, with this overdose of “unnecessary” capitalization – as if making it bigger would make it more important – I’ve started being more thoughtful of where and when to use capital letters. I still keep them for proper nouns for example. but what used to be the application of an assimilated grammatical rule, became to my eyes an abuse of self-proclaimed importance.

it also seems that in a digital-first world, the dots are now clear enough. it also seems like capital letters are mostly added by the autocorrect. not anymore because they are necessary, but because of a formal rule that might not be as relevant as it originally was. most of us don’t bother tapping that shift key when we’re texting. plus, smaller can also be sweeter. and we see more and more brands removing the use of capital letters – even in their name. it can create a softer tone of voice, bring it closer to an informal friend-to-friend conversation, and eventually build a more intimate relationship. just like what we want to do with this academy.

last but not least, in this overwhelming world where everyone seems to be shouting for attention and where people have become brand-fatigued, softer and more intimate can be welcome. so I guess there is no need to shout if you build a message that is actually welcomed or content that actually matters… just think about it.

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