Revisiting ALL UPPERCASE LETTERS vs. Upper And Lower Case

Picture of a sad robot faceI’m sometimes surprised by which of my blog posts people get passionate about. Take, for example, my post on whether all uppercase letters are inherently harder to read than upper and lower case. I wrote the post back in 2009, yet someone posted a comment on it today, 8 years later. And last week someone said the post was “utter BS”.

Since the all uppercase topic seems to still be hotly debated, I thought I’d write a quick update. It appears there was a research study done in 2007 that I missed when I first wrote the post. The research confirms, as I said 8 years ago, that:

  • All uppercase letters are not inherently harder to read.
  • All uppercase letters don’t slow down reading speed.
  • In fact, in this study, done with both normal vision and low vision readers, people with low vision performed BETTER with all uppercase letters, presumably because they were larger.
  • This better performance effect with all uppercase disappeared when they increased the size of the font so that it was large even in upper and lower case.
  • All uppercase letters did  not slow down the normal vision people.

It’s a small sample size, but it was statistically significant, and so far as I know there is still no research showing the opposite, so, I’m sticking to the idea for now, that all uppercase letters are not inherently harder to read.

HERE’S THE RESEARCH REFERENCE:

Aries Arditi and Jianna Cho;. Letter case and text legibility in normal and low vision. Vision Res. 2007 Sep; 47(19): 2499–2505. Published online 2007 Aug 6. doi:  10.1016/j.visres.2007.06.010

Fonts, Typography, And How We Read Online

I’ve been a fan of Kevin Larson’s writing about fonts, typography and online reading for some time. I mention him in my latest book, 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People.

Kevin is a reading psychologist that works with typographers at Microsoft. He’s part of a team at Microsoft with a goal to make reading online as easy and enjoyable as reading from paper. I recently interviewed Kevin for a podcast.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on this link

Here are some of the things we talk about in the interview:

–print on paper is at 1200 or 2400 dpi, but current screens are only 100 dpi

–the software technology we use to draw letters has dramatically changed over the last 20 years, and this has improved the quality of text online, even though the dpi is still poor

–the goal of typography is “to be invisible”

–what rasterization and anti-aliasing mean in terms of making text more readable online

–how online reading specialists use color to “trick” our eyes into seeing a higher resolution

–why people who are colorblind will see text more clearly than people who are not

–what induces eye fatigue online

–when you are 40 years old only 1/2 of the light in your environment makes it through to your eye

and much much more!

And for more information on Kevin’s work at Microsoft you can also read his article on fonts and typography here.

This is the first in a podcast series I am working on. Let me know what you think!