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  • Writer's picturejeannettesutton

Making use of ALL CAPS

Of the many problems in public alert and warning messages, the habit of falling back upon "how things have always been done" or "what feels familiar" is a failing strategy. In this case, we're talking about the use of ALL CAPS.

In the early days of NOAA products and other messaging, ALL CAPS were used as a standard of practice. Entire messages were

issued using CAPITAL letters, making it extremely difficult to read without significant effort and attention. The use of CAPITAL letters has also been viewed as "screaming" at the message receiver because the size of the letter is used for emphasis.

We can make use of ALL CAPS to emphasize parts of the message instead of screaming the entire thing. Here, we have edited this wildfire warning for several content areas, including 1) changing the wildfire trigger language (removing the contents about Level 1 Fire Advisory Alert, which is meaningful to those who are within the fire service or have prior education), 2) adding a time at which the message was issued, 3) correcting a misspelled word (evacuatifons), and 4) increasing guidance about what people can do to prepare should an evacuation order be issued in the middle of the night.

We also make use of ALL CAPS to draw attention to the most important parts of the message; the things we want people to see most easily and to pay attention to. In this case, we emphasize the hazard and the possible impact as well as guidance on where people can go for more information. This creates internal consistency as well.

By making use of ALL CAPS to call attention to specific contents, we can help to guide attention to what matters the most.


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