Rochelle Weiner Carr - 03/23/2017 - Branding & Design / Copywriting

So the Chicago Manual of Style just announced two updates, both for which I've long been a long time waiting.

  1. The word email no longer needs a hyphen.
  2. The word internet no longer needs to be capitalized.

Can I get a resounding “YAHOO?” As a graphic designer, these are the kinds of things I notice. And I have been bucking the system on these two rules for a long time now. For pete's sake, why would you put a hyphen in email? Or capitalize internet? Capitalization takes too much effort and fewer keystrokes is always better. Can we just keep things simple, folks?

A capital idea

In general I think too many things are capitalized. Fine, fine, fine, if it's a proper noun like January or Paris or Tuesday (all girl's names, btw) - I think there's still a place for that. But do we need title case? Title Case Is Where You Capitalize Every Word In A Title. Using title case, especially in articles are written in a conversational tone (as is the trend, just as this blog is written) is like wearing a gown to a party when the rest of the crowd is come-as-you-are.

First thing I do with provided content is change all titles and subheads to sentence case, which means just the first letter is capitalized, like you would write a sentence. Sometimes my clients will ask me to change it back, but most times it's left in place. Part of what I am hired for is style, and this style just looks better - cleaner. And simpler. And the tone it projects is friendly, modern and conversational. Capitalizing everything is too formal. And being formal feels old-fashioned. The way forward is casual - jeans to the office instead of pinstripes, sneakers to church instead of gloves, and pjs to the grocery store. (Ok, I hate that last one, but you know what I'm after.) Simplicity. Less is more.


The vernacular long ago dictated "email" over e-mail and "internet" over Internet, and today the rules have finally caught up. High time, y'all.


Two space or not two space?

Another thing that I do immediately when provided content for a project is a global search to replace all double spaces with single spaces. I know most people who are not graphic designers add two spaces after a period because they were taught that when they learned to type. But I am here to tell you folks, that this convention has long gone to the wayside. It was used in the days of monospaced typewriters to make paragraph content more legible. But since the advent of desktop publishing back in the 80s, this convention has been scrapped. Not needed. Outmoded by computers and modern typography. Seriously - it is way more than passé, it is an eyesore. Please folks, do your fellow graphic designers a solid, save yourself from carpal tunnel, and banish this practice once and for all.

Who ya gonna call?

Another thing that is on my simplification list is stylization of phone numbers. Which looks best to you?

  1. 123-456-7890
  2. (123) 456-7890
  3. 123.456.7890
  4. 123 456 7890

To me, hands down, it's 4. Clean and simple. European styling has used this fashion for a long time now, but here in the US we've been slow to adopt this pared down visual. What do we need the extra keystrokes for? Why spend the extra pixels? For the love of all things earthly, parentheses? It's juts not needed, my friends.

Form follows function

Language changes, as does the written word. Typically vernacular changes first and the rules catch up later. While there are many rules to learn in typography, some rules just feel wrong, and I for one feel it's up to the graphic designers amongst us to lead the march. It's like actors who memorize their lines only so they can forget them when they play the part. Or artists who study the work of masters only to inspire their own expression. I'm not saying throw out all conventions, but sometimes the rules don't make sense and don't reflect life.  Sometimes, even though you know the rules, you know you're better without them.

The vernacular long ago dictated "email" over e-mail and "internet" over Internet, and today the rules have finally caught up. High time, y'all.


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