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All Caps vs Mixed Case Type for Captions

Typography plate with various fonts

When creating and reading captions for media and events, they are more than just text. It’s important that they are easy to read. Right font size, weight, contrast, type, placement are critical for readability – in the same way right intonation and articulation are important for making speech intelligible.

According to UX and accessibility research, mixed case text is easier to read than all caps – especially for long text.

The following are examples:

Why Text in All Caps Is Hard for Users to Read

“The more nonparallel edges your text has, the higher the shape contrast it has. High shape contrast makes words easier for users to recognize.”

Note: Compare “HELLO, HOW ARE YOU?” to “Hello, how are you?”, for example – which is easier to read?

HMI Design – Don’t Use ALL CAPS!

“Studies have shown that people read uppercase words 10-15% slower than other texts. Many experts believe it has to do with how uppercase affects word shape recognition.”

All Caps: A Dyslexics plea.

“To the point of this little moan, when someone writes in all caps I just cannot see the shape of the intended word, if its just a couple I will work it out if I feel they might be essential to the overall meaning of the argument. Once it gets to sentences of all caps then I just cross my eyes and move on.”

Subtitle Guidelines

“Use caps to indicate when a word is stressed. Do not overuse this device – text sprinkled with caps can be hard to read. … However, avoid large chunks of text in caps as they can be hard to read.”

Closed Captioning Standards and Protocol for Canadian English Language Television Programming Services

“Historically upper case lettering was the standard in Canadian English language closed captioning. It is now recommended to use mixed case in all programs being captioned in English Canada.”

Originally TV captions were in all caps because older technologies didn’t allow to display them in mixed case as well as all caps. However, technology has advanced to allow for a crispier display of mixed case letters. It applies to all types of captioning access for TV, videos, events. There are also other considerations to make words easier to read such as font size, weight, color contrast, text placement, chunking, and so on. Need help with making your captions easier to read? Contact us.

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