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If a headline is difficult to read because it is written in all-caps and the words lack form but each individual letter is clear, is it illegible, unreadable, or something else?

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To me, illegible gives a connotation of unclear lettering, but when I read the definition, it looks like it would be a valid word here. Personally, though, I would go with simply calling it unreadable or indecipherable, if I'm reading you right, and the writing is SOMETHINGLIKETHIS. – Steven Jan 24 '13 at 18:46
I would suggest unintelligible or incomprehensible both meaning difficult to understand. People read by word wholes, and are far more used to the shape of lower case letters to read the word wholes. All capitals makes it much harder to read the individual words. – spiceyokooko Jan 24 '13 at 18:47
up vote 5 down vote accepted

As Wikipedia's article on ALL CAPS indicates, it is legibility which is affected. While it doesn't state that the text becomes completely illegible, it notes that the practice leads to low legibility.

Bad handwriting is considered to be cacographic.

While I don't think that they really address the fact that the individual letters are clear, you can also consider incoherent and indistinct.

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Its both "less legible and less readable". The words illegible and unreadable are too strong. Besides the legibility of the headline depends on the context, like a newspaper daily having its name on the top most headline of the newspaper, a form of art(calligraphy), etc. They can also mean shouting, if used in emails and such media.

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I agree, and I might even be inclined to call it less pleasing, if I could still read the words just fine. – J.R. Jan 24 '13 at 20:09

Depending on the nature of the headline, you might call it ambiguous, incomprehensible, or incoherent.

Ambiguous (open to more than one interpretation--now here vs. nowhere):


Incomprehensible (no meaning at all can be extracted):


Incoherent (words with apparent meaning, but used illogically or inconsistently):


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But wouldn't these all hold true, even if the letters were all in lower case? In other words, for your first example, you've answered a kerning/spacing question, not a capitalization question. – J.R. Jan 24 '13 at 20:11
True, I haven't really addressed the capitalization specifically. – Hellion Jan 24 '13 at 20:29

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