ALL CAPS = Shouting - since when?

Typing emails and messages in ALL CAPS is considered ‘shouting’, but I believe this convention predates the internet and probably appears in print media - especially works of fiction, where pieces of dialogue are rendered in all-caps to make it clear that a character is shouting.

But… Whats the earliest example of this?

NB: I know that some ancient manuscripts were written only in block letters - probably for a variety of reasons, but I’m not talking about that - I’m looking for the earliest in-print rendering where all-caps intentionally denotes shouting or raising of the voice

Paging @Exapno_Mapcase.

The cool thing is that in Discourse (unlike vBulletin) it really works.

At least since 1994:
Netiquette in 1994 - YouTube

I think it dates all the way back to when computers could make use of lower case, not just treat every keypress as undifferentiated CAPITAL LETTERS. Once that was largely the case, anyone who continued to use ALL CAPS sort of stood out. I’d search Usenet circa 1978.

ETA: This article agrees that it was usenet but has it later than the timeframe I was anticipating.

God’s Other Son By Don Imus has one character ask of a script ‘Why is this bit all in capitals?’. He’s informed all caps means he should shout.

ETA It was first published in 1981

All-caps has long been used as emphasis, so determining whether an example is shouting or not is tough.

I nominate fanzines as an early example of using all-caps for raising the voice.

Here’s an example from The Comet #1, May 1930. Check out page six on the pdf.

"## Association with shouting[edit]

Messages typed completely in capital letters are often equated on social media to shouting and other impolite or argumentative behaviors.[10] This became a mainstream interpretation with the advent of networked computers, from the 1980s onward. However, a similar interpretation was already evidenced by written sources that predated the computing era, in some cases by at least a century, and the textual display of shouting or emphasis was still not a settled matter by 1984. The following sources may be relevant to the history of all caps:[11]

  • The 17 April 1856 edition of the Yorkville Enquirer (South Carolina) uses the expression “This time he shouted it out in capital letters.”

  • The 1880 book The Standard speaker and elocutionist has a section titled “SHOUTING STYLE”, which states that “This will be seldom needed throughout an entire piece, but wherever the words imply calling, or commanding, it will be in keeping with the words to employ it. As examples note the following selections marked in CAPITAL letters as the appropriate place for shouting emphasis.” A large number of literature examples are then given where all caps has been used to represent shouting.

  • The 6 September 1958 edition of Bookseller: The Organ of the Book Trade describes writing in lower-case “rather than shouting with all caps. The effect is pleasing to anybody in a contemplative mood.”

  • A 2014 article on netiquette (online etiquette) in New Republic , titled “How Capital Letters Became Internet Code for Yelling”,[12] states that:

  • According to Professor Paul Luna (of the University of Reading’s department of typography and graphic communication), all caps has been used “to convey grandeur, pomposity, or aesthetic seriousness for thousands of years”, and for many years to express anger or shouting in print. Examples are cited such as pianist Philippa Schuyler’s 1940s biography titled “Composition in Black and White”, which used all-caps to “yell”, and Robert Moses, who in the 1970s used all caps to “convey rage” at a draft of a book.

  • Online newsgroups and bulletin board posts from around 1984 show that a user still needed to explain that “if it’s in caps i’m trying to YELL”,[13] or that “Capitalizing whole words gives the impression that you’re shouting”.[14] Another summed up that there seemed to be a developing consensus that emphasis was given to words via all caps, or by surrounding them with asterisks.[14]"


I was told that all caps was shouting in 1994 (a year before I got on the 'net) when I was taught how to use PINE for email.

Sometimes caps are just caps. :smiley:

Around this time, advertisers realized that they could buy several inches of a column and put a few words in capital letters inside of an otherwise white block. This made the words stand out from a sea of small black type.

Since Roman times.

Of course, it may just be somebody channeling Robert E. McElwaine …

One complication in the very, very early BBS programs used in mainframe environments was that perhaps the person was simply using an uppercase only terminal. Maybe even, God help them, a model 33 teletype.

then there was a fad for a while that it was cool to type in all lower case with no punctuation everybody was channeling archie god knows what don marquis would have made of the phenomenon of course it survives in some peoples user names

hey now


The key point made in the article is:

“Paul Luna, a typography and graphic communication professor, explained that people have been using all caps for thousands of years—not to shout at everyone, but to convey “grandeur,” “pomposity,” or “aesthetic seriousness.” These uppercase letters were called majuscule , which evokes their majestic functions.”

IMO, …“grandeur,” “pomposity,” or “aesthetic seriousness.” is the same as shouting.

The Romans did not write in ALL CAPS, they wrote in letters. At the time, there were no lowercase and uppercase letters, there was only one set of them. Now it happens that that original set of Roman letters eventually became the capital letters, but that was later.

In the early Middle Ages, a set of letters called half-uncial developed and eventually became the lowercase. Except they didn’t call them that until printing was invented. The printers sorted the capital type into one case of compartments and the others into a different case.

I agree. But the Romans did have a ‘cursive’ script as well (which also didn’t have a distinction between capitals and lowercase).

Some of the letters of later Roman cursive bear a great resemblance to the lowercase characters that came into use later.

Roman letters in this script from Vindolanda:

Back in the mid to late 90s my company in Japan and the overall industry, worldwide was transitioning from faxes to email. Not everyone did it, but many people routinely typed all their faxes in all caps, perhaps because of questions concerning legibility, especially if a fax needed to be forwarded. I knew a number of people who brought that habit forward into email. Business emails —unusually — don’t have as much shouting as Usenets or unmoderated forums so it wasn’t an obvious question.

It’s not really shouting if the entire message is in a single case, is it? Only if there is contrast between two styles can there be emphasis.

Or, if you have ever had the opportunity to hear Morse Code, is the sender shouting? :slight_smile:

1930s telegram:

One from 1980 using some kind of model 32 or 33 teleprinter(?):

So if you get dressed down IRL by a drill sergeant, there’s no way to tell if he’s shouting at you unless he also speaks softly at some point?

No. All-caps for the whole message can very much still be considered shouting.