Using All Caps With the Right Fonts

Tips for Setting Type in All Capital Letters

Script and Decorative All Caps - Yuck!
Script and Decorative ALL CAPS - Yuck! It can work with some fonts, but choose carefully. Either change the font or don't use ALL CAPS. © J. Bear

"Right and wrong do not exist in graphic design. There is only effective and non-effective communication." - Peter Bil'ak, typeface designer

Typing in all caps in an email is akin to shouting. In print and web design, setting text in all capital letters to draw attention to an element is fine as long as you use the right font.

There are times when words set in all capital letters are necessary and acceptable.

Just pay close attention to the fonts you use. Acronyms, such as NASA, and abbreviations such as USA and RSVP generally appear in all caps within body copy. Acronyms and abbreviations within paragraphs are just a few letters set in all caps and are usually easy to read. Long headlines and entire paragraphs set in all caps are difficult to read. They slow the reader down.

The Best Fonts for All Caps

For legibility when using all caps in text or titles, stick with the same basic sans serif or serif typefaces that you use for setting text. These fonts are designed for legibility at a small size and are easily readable when used in headlines and titles. Because using all-caps is a common way to set headlines, many fonts are specifically designed for use in all-caps—they don't even offer lower case letters. Some of the many all-cap fonts useful for headlines and titles are: 

  • Aldous Vertical
  • Diablo Regular
  • Chic
  • Eagle Bond
  • Yearbook
  • Felix Titling Regular
  • Steelworks Book
  • Capital Pro Regular

The Wrong Fonts for All Caps

Don't use an elaborate decorative, illustrative or script font in all capitals. Just don't. This usage is difficult to read at best and illegible at worst. Readability is the guiding factor when using any font in your print designs.

Type that is set in all caps using a script or elaborate decorative font almost always fails the readability test. 

Newsletter mastheads occasionally use simple decorative Old-English style fonts in all caps. However, it is best to save decorative all caps for logo designs or graphic text that is meant to grab attention by its appearance, not its actual text message.

Tips for Using All-Caps

  • Avoid setting almost any script typeface in all caps—RSVP is a common culprit here. 
  • Stay away from Blackletter fonts with their elaborate thick and thin lines. They aren't legible in all caps either. 
  • Avoid using fonts with pronounced serifs, swashes or other decorative elements for all caps.
  • Short headlines set in all caps are much better than long headlines set in all caps. Use all caps in moderation.
  • Mastheads and other text that serve as graphic embellishments can be successfully set with all capitals that are more decorative than typical body text. Pay close attention to the spacing of the letters for optimal legibility.
  • Use titling fonts. These fonts are specifically designed for all-cap headlines and titles.
  • Pay careful attention to kerning (the space between letters) when setting any headlines, including those in all caps, to avoid unsightly gaps between pairs of letters.