The Evilest E-mail Sin

It's downright offensive if you're not capitalizing the start of your sentences, says Working Girl.

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Outside Voices - ''Working Girl'' aka Karen Burns
Animated smiley faces. The thoughtless "reply all." Signature lines with inspirational quotes. Passive aggressively cc-ing a person's boss. And, of course, THE DREADED ALL CAPS.

All email iniquities.

All of them bad.

But what's the worst thing you can do in an E-mail? What is the one unforgivable sin?

You may argue. You may say: Oh, that isn't so awful. But in Working Girl's little corner of cyberspace, the very worst thing you can do in an E-mail is not use the shift key.


Writing in all lower case gives the impression the writer is whispering, which is just as annoying as shouting in all caps. Worse, it makes messages difficult to read quickly. Talk about passive aggressive. Capital letters at the beginnings of sentences are like sign posts, there to guide your reader. Here's a new sentence! Here's another one! See how easy that is?

It's hard to absorb a message when you're constantly noting the absence of capitalization and mentally compensating, all the while asking yourself: Why? Why?

How much energy does a writer save by not using a shift key? What could he or she do with that energy instead? Perform half a push-up? Compose a note of music? Write two words of The Great American Novel?

It doesn't seem worth it, really.

If anyone can think of a good reason for not capping first words of sentences (not to mention the pronoun "I"!), WG would love to hear it.

Meanwhile, be kind. Capitalize.

Karen Burns, Working Girl, is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, to be released by Running Press in April 2009. She blogs at