Chris Uggen's Blog: no-caps: free the pinky!

Monday, October 01, 2007

no-caps: free the pinky!

the issue of lower-case-edness popped up in the comments recently. why does this blog eschew capitalization? hmm. i dunno. i've seen a few group discussions of this issue, but have yet to suss out my own rationale. writing a post about non-capitalization seems like precisely the sort of self-indulgent navel-gazing activity that gives us lower-casers a bad name. still, since at least one person is curious, i'll offer ten possible reasons.

10. efficiency. it is a bit quicker to type this way. but i'm sure that's not the real reason.

9. affinity. there's a whole community of non-capitalizers out there. daughter esperanza classifies it as an emo thing, but i'm long past the age when emo was a positively valued characteristic. [hmmm. maybe esperanza and i should start pitching another high-concept comedy: emo dad, starring robert smith and miley cyrus].

8. tone. in contrast to my scholarly or administrative writing, i'm self-consciously avoiding an authoritative tone in the blog. i'd rather convey casual informality here, since i'm generally popping off with unfiltered and half-baked ideas and reactions. there's a word for people who pop off in capital letters: blowhard. don't believe me? check out all the cool capital letters on this site.

7. kids. the instant message generation is bringing me around to the idea of productively tailoring my writing to the medium in which it will appear. as noted in #8, i'm trying to convey the message that this is only a blog.

6. cummings. and not just ee cummings, of course. innumerable poets and writers have experimented with punctuation, capitalization, and other writing conventions. the results are sometimes wonderfully expressive and sometimes lame.

5. pain. i've spent too much time at keyboards over the years and no-caps makes for less painful typing. try it -- free the pinky! isn't it easier on the hands and wrists? now, if i could just ditch that mouse...

4. contexts. no-caps just looks sooo cool in contexts.

3. personality. according to a commenter on my myers-briggs post, enfp's like me eschew capitalization as a stylistic choice.

2. mystery. my early posts were fully capitalized and rather carefully proofread. after a few months, however, i just stopped capitalizing. i really don't remember why or the extent to which this reflected a conscious decision, except that the words seemed to flow a bit easier this way.

1. freedom. for all of the above reasons, i never seem to get writer's block when typing in lower-case letters. you might give it a try if you are stuck sometime. for some, blogs offer li'l domains of free expression in a world of cautious, constrained, and coded communication. altering one's capitalization (or punctuation, i suppose) helps to draw a sharp line between one's serious scholarly and administrative writing and the much, much looser assemblage of thoughts collected in a blog.

of course, that's just me. actual writers can express themselves quite powerfully without a mote of capitalization or punctuation. here's a personal favorite from Mr. Edward Estlin Cummings:

a man who had fallen among thieves

a man who had fallen among thieves
lay by the roadside on his back
dressed in fifteenthrate ideas
wearing a round jeer for a hat

fate per a somewhat more than less
emancipated evening
had in return for consciousness
endowed him with a changeless grin

whereon a dozen staunch and leal
citizens did graze at pause
then fired by hypercivic zeal
sought newer pastures or because

swaddled with a frozen brook
of pinkest vomit out of eyes
which noticed nobody he looked
as if he did not care to rise

one hand did nothing on the vest
its wideflung friend clenched weakly dirt
while the mute trouserfly confessed
a button solemnly inert.

Brushing from whom the stiffened puke
i put him all into my arms
and staggered banged with terror through
a million billion trillion stars

-ee cummings


At 9:12 PM, Blogger Woz said...

I would totally watch Emo Dad, but maybe Rivers Cuomo would make a btter dad than Robert Smith, but only because as an image-concious youth, I don't want to have to categorize my Cure as emo listening...

At 9:26 PM, Blogger S.S.Stone said...

and i thought it was all about your artistic approach to creative writing thank you for this post i found it informative as well as entertaining and decided to give this comment one long run on sentence and you're so right the words just flow when you no longer have the need to use the pinky and worry about such upper and lower case but there could be a problem here knowing when to start and whent to stop those thoughts just keep coming laughing here ;)

ps i'm sure you've answered many a bloggers question some of those who asked and those who wondered but never did.
on another note, your ten points were great!!!!

At 11:25 PM, Blogger christopher uggen said...

woz, you're my target demo. rivers is a nice alternative, since chris carrabba is probably a bit young to be parenting a precocious non-emo tween.

sarah, thanks for the inspiration -- and the fine example. a little ginsberg (, a little joyce (

funny, i've got a draft post in Normal Capitalization, since it deals with a serious subject that i've thought about a lot.

At 11:36 AM, Blogger kristina b said...

what a great post! i often write in all lowercase, especially online... well, come to think of it, only online. it's interesting to see some one else's explanation for the phenomena - i've never really thought too much about it, but sometimes i catch myself feeling self-conscious about it, or starting an email that way and going back to correct it. other times it seems more appropriate.

i am self-consciously doing it right now! haha.


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