Capital Letters in Adverts

by Craig Shrives
The Quick Answer
There comes a time when the need to be effective trumps grammar rulings. Therefore, have the confidence to use capital letters in adverts as required.

Capital Letters in Adverts

Capital letters attract the eye. Therefore, it is acceptable to use them in advertisements and signs as required. For example:
  • We offer independent Mortgage Advice.
  • (There is no grammatical reason for the "M" on "Mortgage" or the "A" on "Advice." This is only acceptable in an advert.)
  • Eat our Doughnuts and get Thinner!
  • ("D" and "T" only acceptable in an advert)
  • Simply the Best Pies in town
  • ("B" and "P" only acceptable in an advert)
  • Kids Eat FREE
  • ("E" and "FREE" only acceptable in an advert)
capital letters in advertising

Capital "M" acceptable
(newspaper advertisement)

Overview of the Writing Cases

Here is an overview of the main writing cases, comparing their use in normal writing and in advertising:
Writing CaseDescriptionNormal Writing ContextAdvertising and Signage Context
UppercaseALL UPPERCASE LETTERSUppercase is not used for long texts as it slows reading speed. It can be used for buttons and, typically, single-word instructions (e.g., YES, NO, STOP)Uppercase is useful to attract the eye. It is used with short phrases, particularly single words.
Lowercaseall lowercase lettersUsing all lowercase letters for long texts is rare as starting a sentence with a lowercase letter can look slapdash. Lowercase is often used for short phrases, especially on buttons or titles where no emphasis is sought. Lowercase has a fast reading speed.Using all lowercase letters is used for style purposes (it can portray the user as trendy and daring). Lowercase is also used as a contrast to the other cases.
Sentence CaseFirst word capitalized then lowercase. It's normal writing.Sentence case is tidy and unobtrusive. It is the default case before any rhetorical effect (e.g., emphasis, style) is sought. Sentence case has the fastest reading speed. Of note, sentence case is often used for texts that are not full sentences.
Title CaseAll the Principal Words in Capitals (Articles and Prepositions Are Not Given Capitals)Less stark than uppercase, title case is used for multi-word titles. It is often in bold to highlight it as a title.Title case is useful for titles because it is easy to read and less shouty than uppercase while still attracting the eye.
Read more about title case.

Beware! Grammar Mistakes Can Be Costly

A third of those questioned said they would not do business with companies using poor spelling or grammar. (In the US, lost revenue through bad writing is estimated at over $200 billion a year. In the UK, the Royal Mail states that poor written correspondence costs business £40 billion a year in lost sales.)

Therefore, there is a balance to be struck. From a grammatical perspective, a capital letter on a common noun is wrong. Therefore, it has the potential to scare off your customers. However, it will make a word more prominent in your advert, and this could make your advert more effective.

use of uppercase in advertising
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

Capital letters and the points of the compass Using capital letters with proper and common nouns Capital letters with the four seasons Capital letters with moons, stars and planets Capital letters start sentences What is title case? Test on using capital letters