Bid proposals are important documents. After all, there are often millions of dollars in business at stake, as well as lots of people’s jobs.
So it’s understandable that companies preparing bids want to convey the importance of those documents as much as possible … Sometimes by Capitalizing every Word they consider Especially Important.
Take another look at the second half of that last sentence. Did capitalizing all those words really add anything of value to the sentence? Or did it just make it odd looking and harder to read?
Experts in typography – which Merriam-Webster defines as “the style, arrangement or appearance of typeset matter” – say overuse of capitalization slows readers down. One reason for this is that people tend to read word by word, rather than letter by letter, and recognize words by their shape. Capitalizing a word that is not normally capitalized changes that word’s shape and, thus, its readability.
Overcapitalization also looks antiquated, according to the Guardian’s style guide:
“A look through newspaper archives would show greater use of capitals the further back you went. The tendency towards lower case, which in part reflects a less formal, less deferential society, has been accelerated by the explosion of the internet: some web companies, and many email users, have dispensed with capitals altogether.”
And then there’s this reason not to overdo it:
“(O)veruse of capitals, particularly when addressing outside readers, can convey the image of a bureaucracy that is overawed by its own concepts and processes,” writes Robert B. Parkinson of WritingforResults.net.
While some style guides offer pages and pages of exceptions and special cases, English tends to have just two basic rules for capitalization:
- Capitalize the first words of sentences
- Capitalize proper nouns (ie, “Warren Buffett” or “FedEx”, but not “the company’s chairman” or “our overseas data center”)
Outside of those two instances, it’s best to set your “default” style to lower case. As the Economist’s style guide advises:
“If in doubt use lower case unless it looks absurd.”