Monday, August 5, 2013

LOUD NOISES! Should We Scrap the Caps?

by Mindy McGinnis

As I was recently typing up a letter to promote NOT A DROP TO DRINK to public libraries in Ohio, I made the super-duper mistake of not having my critique partner look it over before printing out 250 copies. That was a big oops, and more details can be found here. After coming to my senses and having R.C. Lewis take a look at everything, she pointed out something that technically isn't wrong... but to some people might seem not quite right.

It seems that pretty much everyone in the industry uses ALL CAPS when typing a title. I see it in emails from my editor, my agent, and fellow authors as well. Putting the title in CAPS is pretty much the norm for us, and I don't give it a second thought when hitting the Caps Lock key. What I don't think about is how people outside the industry might perceive that choice.

R.C.'s comment made me think back to when I first started rollicking around writer's sites and blogs. I remember seeing people putting their own titles in CAPS and thinking, "Geez, really?" It seems almost pretentious to wholly capitalize your own title. What are you trying to prove? What are you saying? Do you think this makes your title stand out from the rest of the text? Is this a marketing move?

Years of absorbing the culture now has me capitalizing myself all over the place, which no one seems to mind. Yet, what will someone on the outside think if they get a promotional letter from me in which it seems that I'm SCREAMING MY TITLE INTO THEIR FACE? Will they think I'm pretentious? Bold? Full of myself? Will they know that this is just how it's done?

I'm not sure. I'm so unsure of how this would be perceived by those outside of publishing that I took R.C.'s advice and decided to italicize my title in the promotional letter.

What do you think? Is ALL CAPS abrasive, or is this something even people outside of the industry take in stride?

Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian. Her debut, Not a Drop to Drink, is a post-apocalyptic survival tale set in a world where freshwater is almost non-existent, available from Katherine Tegen / HarperCollins September 24, 2013. She blogs at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire and contributes to the group blogs Book PregnantFriday the ThirteenersFrom the Write AngleThe Class of 2k13The Lucky 13s & The League of Extraordinary Writers. You can also find her on TwitterTumblr & Facebook.

8 comments:

JeffO said...

It's funny, somewhere along the line I got the idea that ALL CAPS was the convention used for a manuscript, but that published works received italics or underlining or something. So your letter might read,"Attached is the first chapter of MY FABULOUS MANUSCRIPT. My previous novel, The Amazing First Book was a best seller." Or something like that. I don't know where I got that idea, though.

Sophie Perinot said...

I actually appreciate the ALL CAPS because it makes it easy to spot the title and frankly sometimes--having determined I have an interest in a book--I am skimming (a review, a social media post, etc) for just that.

janetsunderland said...

Abrasive. I can handle underlined words but all caps always sound like shouting to me. But then, I really work to read electronic information carefully.

Simon P. Clark said...

It's definitely confusing for non-writers. I've had people ask me if my title is supposed to be capitalised - as if that's how it will appear on the book. There's nothing wrong with having professional norms as long as we can separate what's common usage and what's just a work thing. Even using 'ms' and 'beta-' will get you blank looks from someone who doesn't work in publishing...

I may start SHOUTING my title even while I'm speaking. it will be sure to get me great EXPOSURE.

Lydia Netzer said...

I think it's appropriate when italics are not available, like in Twitter or text messages. Even in comment forms, although italics are available if you know how to tag. But in emails or in print, if italics are available, I think they should be used.

Debra McKellan said...

I didn't think about it until you said it. On my blog, I italicize. For my queries, I use caps, so I think I weren't pushing to an agent or publisher, I'd stick with italics. Non-biz people know italics...I think.

Matt Sinclair said...

To me, this is a perfect example of "know your audience." I typically write them out and italicize them. Yet, even for audiences that are more likely to be writers -- in my blog interviews, for example, and many other places -- I typically write them out in the usual format and italicize them.

Gina Gao said...

I believe that caps just makes everything easier. It's just a thing I guess.

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