Legalish - ALL CAPS

Why are parts of some contracts in ALL CAPS?

tl;dr mild, unjustified, conservatism

Attempts to unify commercial law in the United States in the ±1950s (Uniform Commercial Code) introduced the requirement that certain parts of a contract be "conspicuous".

In the 1950's (the decade of the the first dot matrix printer and high-level compiler were created, and the Turing Test), type-writers were a thing and All Caps was an obvious candidate for conspicuousness.

Obviously, in decades since, when word processing is second-nature to most, and bold, underline and highlight functions obvious to most, All Caps is pretty silly.

Plenty of judges think so too. Yet, there's something about the click of a typewriter in All Caps.

There have been a few studies showing that CAPS are actually harder to read and, although they do more generally emphasise the capitalised text over uncapitalised, there are plenty of other great ways to emphasise something.

Tried and tested alternatives include:

  • bold and underline the relevant text
  • highlighting or colour differentiating text
  • distinguishing text interactively (scroll-pause).

However, as with much innovation, unless there's a need to improve something that ain't broke, All Caps is here to stay.


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