Monthly Archives: October 2014

UPPER CASE versus lower case for headings

UPPER CASE or full capitals means typing text, such as a heading, in capital letters. It is used to emphasise the text, but it can be harder to read than lower case text.

With UPPER CASE, all the letters are the same height. With lower case, there is more visual difference between the letters as some extend above the line, such as t and d, and some extend below the line, such as g and y. The greater differentiation between the letters in lower case makes it easier for readers to quickly recognise the letters and words – and the meaning of your message.

Compare these two formats:

  • PLEASE READ THIS VERY IMPORTANT AND LONG HEADING CAREFULLY
  • Please read this very important and long heading carefully

Headings in UPPER CASE can also be hard to read if they include acronyms, such as WHO for World Health Organisation, which usually stand out as acronyms in text because they are in UPPER CASE.

Make it as easy as possible for readers to get your message. Try to avoid using UPPER CASE, particularly for long headings.

Editing pages to avoid “widow” and “orphan” lines

Editing a document for clear communication focuses on both the text and the layout of the text. What to look for in the page layout depends on the type and length of document.

For long, text-rich documents, be aware of “widows” and “orphans” which are lines of text separated by a page break from the rest of the paragraph they are in, making the text harder to read. A “widow” is a paragraph-ending line that appears at the top of the next page, at the end (death) of the paragraph. An “orphan” is a paragraph-opening line that appears at the bottom of a page, at the beginning (birth) of the paragraph.

“Widow” lines can be more distracting to readers than “orphans”, but both should be avoided. Turn on the “Widow/Orphan control” feature in Word under Format – Paragraph – Line and Page Breaks.

Other tips

  • split a long paragraph into two paragraphs if possible
  • rewrite the paragraph slightly to remove a “widow” line
  • insert a page break before an “orphan” line.

Look out for headings orphaned at the bottom of a page or with only a line or two of text under them. To make headings stand out, push them to the top of the next page. In formatting the style for headings, turn on the “Keep with next” feature in Word under Format – Paragraph – Line and Page Breaks.