PR Peeve #3: LET’S CAPITALIZE EVERYTHING!!! The Case Against Upper Case.

December 2, 2012

Too many people are screaming to be heard. In an effort to stand out, they Capitalize Words that should be lower case. Or, worse still, they use ALL CAPS! (the exclamation point is also common, and some even use multiple exclamation points.

The worst offenders though are the associations that try to make certain terms special by not only capitalizing every letter, but registering the name as a trademark. For example, a real estate agent affiliated with the National Real Estate Association is called REALTOR®. This, no doubt, enables the association to charge higher dues than if its members were called realtors.

In a routine press release, I was recently required to refer to a financial advisor as a “CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional.” That’s a corruption of the English language for many reasons. Are there amateur certified financial planners? If so, how did they get certified? I wanted to eliminate the redundancy and drop the word professional, but, alas, that’s not how the compliance officer approved it so that’s what I had to use. I assumed that reference was the creation of the certifying board, but that board now calls itself the CFP Board, although it makes reference to Certified Financial Planner™ professionals.

The CFP Board doesn’t have a registered trademark for Certified Financial Planner, but it has one for CFP®. We’ll save obnoxious use of acronyms for a future blog post.

Names of persons, places and things are proper nouns and should be capitalized. The first word of a sentence or a phrase after a colon should be capitalized. Virtually everything else should be lower case.

Most clients like to capitalize titles and I also have a client who likes to capitalize names of diseases (i.e., Anorexia Nervosa, better known as anorexia). The proper style is to capitalize a title before a name, as in Vice President Bill Jones. If the title appears after the name, it’s lower case: Bill Jones, vice president. Lawyer, real estate agent, garbage collector, accountant and doctor are occupations, not titles. They should run lower case.

CAPITALIZING EVERYTHING IS ANNOYING AND DOESN’T ACHIEVE ANYTHING. If you’re a marketing professional, find some other way to make your product stand out.

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