To cap or not to cap?

Writing style preferences are constantly changing. Some shifts are pure fashion (this year the Oxford comma is in, next year who knows?). Others, such as recent capitalization trends, may be driven by technology or a desire to cut through the noise and be heard.

Texting, IMs and social media seem to have influenced a lot of people away from using sentence case and capitalized nouns in business correspondence. We’ve all gotten emails along the lines of: hey, will be 5 minutes late for the meeting! — thx, bill.

On the flipside, many organizations have started to over-capitalize certain words and phrases in formal documents as a way to make Important Ideas and Significant Things stand out and be noticed. Corporate headquarters are Corporate Headquarters, generic analytics tools are Analytics Tools and, chances are, somewhere lunchtime has been valorized as Lunch Time.

While style guides don’t always agree on which words to capitalize when — The Canadian Style says yes to “the Prime Minister”, The Canadian Press says no — a good rule of thumb is that too much capitalization makes text hard to read. In a tight, well-written sentence, syntax and cadence will give words the right emphasis without needing caps or other adornments.

So where do you stand on capitalization? Are the principles of grammar and style still relevant in the age of social media — or have we reached the point of “anything goes”?