Hyperlocal news about Melbourne's first suburb: Fitzroy 3065

Spare Me Your Arbitrary And Excessive Capitalisation


Have you noticed that generic McReview sites Capitalise Every Word In The Titles Of Their Posts? Despite contemporary editorial style guides usually suggesting minimal capitalisation? Ever wondered why? It’s because Capitalising words makes them slightly more search engine optimised than lower case words. That’s right, McReview sites really do write more for machines than audiences. They deliberately write ugly text.

A screen capture of Broadsheet made on 7 July 2011

To amuse myself I thought I’d see who else is playing the same game. I’ve been writing review of McReview sites for years now (2009, 2010 and 2011). One the sites I reviewed last, Out of Ideas, is ironically out of ideas and has not published since March. It likes its capitals, with such gems as ‘Continue Reading’. If only I could…

Agenda Melbourne is a tacky coupon site with such majestic headlines as ‘Fashion Supports Tracky Dack Day‘. Superb. SEO your tracky dacks. Milk Bar Mag has some similarly excellent examples including ‘Warm The Cockles Of My Heart‘. No thanks.

It amuses me to see some more sites joining in the fun. Small Werld (sic) gets all shouty with all capitals titles like ‘TRIPPY TACO: DON’T MISS THE MEAT‘. But then it buries all the text of the story in an image slideshow, so there’s next to nothing for Google to index. Oopsies. Totes SEO fail dude. And they’ve thrown in a few apostrophe errors as a bonus. Sweet.

Finally, Small Lust shows no evidence of a style guide or any editorial input – it has no consistency – but it does like a good capital or two, as in ‘Warm Your Heart And Thrill Your Tastebuds’. As You Can Tell, I’m Totally Thrilled. Not.

I wish some of these new media entrepreneurs could practice a bit of good writing and editing. Maybe even learn how to use apostrophes properly. Don’t get me started on ellipses. But that may require paying someone competent, and they don’t pay for content. But they do get what they pay for.

With all these sites audiences are faced with suboptimal reading experiences. The text is all uppity or shouty and is not reader friendly. That’s because it’s not designed to attract readers. It’s made (for the most part, Small Werld excepted) to generate Google SEO, which in turn generates good statistics to be compiled into ROI reports to determine advertising rates. None of this remotely makes for good reading.

Meanwhile, in the wider world of McReview sites, after promising to publish a site ‘soon’ back in November 2010, Top Melbourne appears to have failed even before launching. No fun. It’s hard to take the piss about something that never existed. Speaking of failure, how’s Gram doing?

I’m so glad I’m no longer in this caper alone. What does warm my heart is to see others taking to writing reviews of categories of websites with a similar sardonic wit. Splendid work.


  1. Gosh, how’s that working out for you, that being a bitter cunt thing?

  2. Yeah, uh, I normally like this blog but this post is just whiny, strange and potentially misinformed. Stick to what you’re good at, buddy.

    I’m a web developer, and there are plenty of sites I’ve created where I am the one deciding to “title case” the headlines, because it looks good, or is a convention in the framework that I’m developing in. This is PROBABLY not the nefarious doing of the site owners, but more likely the way that the contracter/developer delivered the site.

    Ruby on Rails (and other frameworks) toss this stuff in for free:

    The uppercased bits on the Small Werld site are all handled via CSS via a ‘text-transform: uppercase’ style. In the HTML they’re titlecased, which apparently you STILL have a problem with. That’s meant for humans to see, not web crawlers.

    I mean, MAYBE you’re right, but most of my clients are not tech-savvy enough to ever suggest things this subtle for SEO purposes.

    • Bingo! One of the reasons I’ve suggested as the cause for the excessive capitalisation is a lack of attention to editorial standards. Developers should never have responsibility for making editorial decisions like the capitalisation of page or article titles. Developers are aesthetically vacuous. So whether management is demanding capitalisation for SEO purposes or allowing developers to make editorial and publishing decisions that should be made by editors, this is confirmation that the managers of these sites are incompetent publishers.

  3. I agree with some of what you’re saying, since I hate bad writing as much as the next person (did you notice that the blog you linked to at the end had a semicolon instead of a colon in the ‘copy’ section? I did!). My problem with your haranguing of Agenda and Milk Bar, both of which I subscribe to, is that there don’t seem to be alternative newsletters or blogs that post about the new venues, the interesting events, and the menu changes that help me keep up-to-date about Melbourne.

    Where shall I find that, if not places like Agenda, White Hat, and Three Thousand?

    • I never said don’t read them, but I question whether they are worth reading. I don’t know who owns Agenda but it looks corporate. Another thing these generic guide sites is that they do not tell readers who they are or who they are owned by (only ThreeThousand is transparent about ownership).

      Milk Bar Mag may be independent (not owned by a corporation) but it does not pay contributors and has a commercial, advertising based, business model. It is not independent in editorial terms as the content exists not to inform readers but to complement advertising.

      In terms of content, the relevance is also questionable. Food bloggers often write the first reviews of new places – these sites are mostly reviewing places that have been open for months and years.

  4. So you lowercase most of your street art post titles in an attempt to be anti-establishment and stick it to the man?

    You’re right in that developers typically do NOT think about these things in depth — they’re happy to throw the responsibility over to the designer. Most designers don’t have enough finesse to care about these things — any slightly artistic person with Photoshop seems to qualify for that job these days. And certainly most site owners these days do not have a history of success and adherence to these (or any) rules in the traditional publishing world.

    Then again, most of the public does not notice nor care. Seems a bit like ranting about a person who routinely breathes through his mouth or keeps his elbows on the table at a dinner party. Bad style perhaps, but people with these traits aren’t typically persecuted publicly.

    There are far bigger fish to fry here… like restaurants and bars that still insist on hiding all of their content in Flash. I’d cheer you on in that rant.

    • Those terrible flash based restaurant sites are again the responsibility of the same incompetent developers, designers and digital agencies. They are not actually concerned with creating a good user experience.

  5. Not sure why you’re blaming the developers. In most cases they’re probably just developing to requirements.

    I suspect restaurants actually request Flash-based sites and PDF menus, since that’s what they see existing restaurant sites using.

  6. I always thought that excessive capitalisation had little or no impact on S.E. ranking. When creating headers it is the use of h tags (h1, h2, etc) which does add some weight if practised in moderation. Moderate use of bold text in headings is another SEO trick but I can’t really vouch for it’s effectiveness.

  7. User experience and development are two separate fields. I wouldn’t necessarily expect a developer to know a great deal about user experience.

    • Officially I’m a writer and editor but I can also prepare effective functional specifications and wireframes. It’s not difficult to consider the UX implications of what you do in web design regardless of your specific niche. The difficult thing appears to be understanding that the user experience should be considered at all!

  8. You’re right when you say that people often don’t consider user experience, but I don’t think you appreciate that UX is a distinct skill-set. Preparing functional specs and wireframes does not equal user experience.

    In 20 seconds I can nitpick quite a few UX issues with your site, but given that it’s not your area, I’m not surprised, and don’t think it’s an issue.

    PS I’m neither a developer or a UX specialist, although I work closely with both.

    • UX should be everyone’s concern in electronic publishing. For example, I’m pleased to have improved my site by removing the flash poll plugin I previously used so readers using Apple mobile devices can now vote in my polls.

  9. Of course it should be a concern, but people have differing levels of knowledge. As mentioned, there are some UX issues with your site, but that’s to be expected since you’re not a UX specialist. The same goes for developers.

  10. Are you using the Broadsheet example as one of an unsightly heading? I think it looks elegant. It perfectly conforms to the rules of maximal headings (all but prepositions, articles and conjunctions are capitalised unless of course the article is the first word). The Style Manual may preference minimal headings but this is only a preference. The only imperative is to keep spelling and punctuation consistent by selecting a working dictionary and keeping a style sheet.

    I’m aware that the editor of Broadsheet has formal editorial training as she was in my classes at RMIT.

    • Broadsheet obviously prefers maximum capitalisation of titles, but it is far from consistent: for example compare ‘From Farm To Market’ and ‘Our Guide to Warm, Wintery Peasant Food’. Why capitalise the ‘to’ in one but not the other?

      It is a subjective aesthetic choice but I think minimal capitalisation looks better, more subtle and less shouty, and that this is preferred by many readers. Maximum capitalisation looks old fashioned and messy.

      Technically my point is that to earn a minor improvement in SEO some commercial sites are deliberately making their sites look ugly by using maximum capitalisation.

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