How to give a presentation: (9) superiority of lower case

One of the services that FJWilson Talent Services offers is presentation training. Here our presentation coach, Anthony Haynes, gives the ninth in a series of concise, practical, tips.

anthony_haynes bnu cropped

When we created this blog, we had to choose a theme (or visual format) to use. We chose one called Chunk.

We like the theme — we think it looks forthright and unfussy — so we intend to stick with it.

But it has one feature we’re not happy with. Look at the headline above this post. It’s all in upper case. That probably helps to make a bold initial impression.

But it isn’t actually very readable.

To see why I say this, try a simple mental experiment: imagine the headline in sentence case. The first letter, H, will, as the first letter in the sentence, take upper case. (Arguably, you could do the same with the first letter of the sub-title, s/S.) The rest will be in lower case.

As a result, the headline will be more readable than in its current form.

Why? Because, when we read, we don’t normally read every letter (one reason typographic errors can be difficult to spot). Typically, we decode words by looking at their overall visual morphology. Two of the main cues for this are (in non-technical language) tails and heads. By tails, I mean those parts of letters that go below the line. In the above headline, lower case g, p, and y have tails.

Heads are the upper bits of tall letters (so H/h, t, and l).

You can see the problem with upper case: the letters are all the same height. Thus upper case makes our apprehension of less direct.

It’s very common to see that, in wanting to give headings (or some other piece of text) emphasis. presenters resort to UPPER CASE.

This is understandable, but self-defeating.


Next in the series: avoidance of cramming.

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