NPR recently had a report on The Two-Way, its breaking news feature, that tickled my funny bone. Apparently, the U.S. Navy has come to terms with the computer age, at least as it relates to the use of all upper case letters in message transmittals.
According to James McCarty, the naval messaging program manager at U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, estimates that the new system will cost 10% of the current system—a savings of as much as $15 million a year. "The Navy gains significant cost efficiencies by eliminating the current Defense Message System (DMS) infrastructure and simply using the existing email infrastructure for final delivery." The transition won’t be seamless as the Navy still has a few systems that won’t be able to handle upper/lower case (sentence case) messages. Messages to those systems will automatically be converted to all upper case. But by 2015 that bug will be fixed and all systems will be able to operate in sentence case.
For years the Emily Post Institute has been advising people to write their electronic communications in sentence case. One reason is that it seems like you’re shouting when you write in all upper case. The Navy found that younger recruits considered it rude to write in all caps. But, there’s another equally important reason: All upper case type is simply harder to read and it takes longer to read as well. If you don’t believe me, click here to see a version of this blog in all upper case. So it makes sense that if you want your message to be read quickly and accurately, (and perceived as polite) sentence case is the way to go.
Of course the best part of the Navy’s decision to move to sentence case was the delivery of the actual message:
"AUTHORIZED TO USE STANDARD, MIXED-CASE CHARACTERS IN THE BODY OF NAVY ORGANIZATIONAL MESSAGES."
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About the author
Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."