Are Your Closed Captions Shouting at You?

Many people today associate text written in all capital letters as text that is meant to be SHOUTED AT YOU! Over the years, researchers set out to prove which type of text is the most legible. The general consensus today is that lower-case lettered words are easier to read. One reason is simply that you are used to reading this type of font. The majority of print that we read is in upper and lowercase font. Also, the human brain reads words, not letters. Words typed in upper and lowercase have more distinctive shapes and varied contours. This allows us to read the actual word and not just each letter. Words set in all capitals are read letter by letter and hence, reading rate is approximately 15% slower.

So the question that remains is: Why are the majority of closed captions written in all capitals? This problem was a solution to an early decoding problem. The original decoders had trouble with letters that had descenders (g, j, p, q, y). These letters ended up getting squished to fit in the caption line and thus became illegible. So the easy solution at the time was to convert text to all capitals. This became the trend for many years to follow.

However, is there still a need to close caption in all caps? The answer is no. Today’s decoders have no problem with the once tricky letters with descenders. So, in effort to move into the 21st century and to enhance readability, many closed captioning companies are choosing to make the switch to upper and lowercase captions. What are your thoughts on this?