In written English, is it okay to emphasize words by capitalizing them? As in:

I would NEVER do that!

Are there other methods to achieve this?

On an aside: Dutch uses acute accents for emphasis:

Ik zou dat nooit doen! [normal]
Ik zou dat nóóit doen! [emphasized]

  • Welcome to EL&U! One formatting suggestion I have for you is to use the > character at the beginning of examples and quotes. It makes it a little easier to read the text.
    – MrHen
    Commented Oct 30, 2013 at 13:27
  • 2
    It's really more about style - does the all-capped word express your need for emphasis more than an bold, italics or an underline would? Of course, underlined electronic text might be confused with a hyperlink. Bib is right about the whole sentence in caps, though - it is construed as "shouting". Commented Oct 30, 2013 at 14:21
  • I don't agree. I feel one word capitalization can be rude, too, such as : "I suggest you call NOW" (which my boss just wrote to a potential customer).
    – user152496
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 23:15
  • You are allowed to do whatever you like, including for capitalization.
    – Drew
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 3:00

3 Answers 3


In non-electronic written English, capitalization is rarely used for emphasis. Much more common is italics or underlining. While underlining was very common in the age of the typewriter, word processing has made italics more accessible (it has long been the preferred technique for emphasis in printed materials).

In email and other electronic communication, capitalization is sometimes used, but it is generally considered akin to a loud voice, rather than an inflected voice. An entire sentence in caps is often called shouting, and is strongly discouraged.

  • I’m not sure how to produce italics in non-electronic written work, since my hand doesn’t change from its normal cursive scrawl. But underlining is certainly easily enough done, and commonly as well.
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 17:49
  • 1
    @tchrist What's cursive? Is it that funny connected stuff? Where do you learn that these days? And you produce writing with your hand??? Fingers I get, but ...
    – bib
    Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 17:51
  • OED hand: 16. The action of the hand in writing and its product; handwriting; style of writing; esp. as belonging to a particular person, country, period, profession, etc.
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 17:54

It seems to me that the use of caps to indicate "shouting" is a matter of subjective preference. While there are cases when the overuse of caps is glaring, other times, it would seem to be more a matter of opinion. I try to refrain from the use, except for an occasional word or phrase. They are rendered more effective, in my OPINION, when they are employed with restraint.

  • 1
    Correct. IF AN ENTIRE SENTENCE OR A MAJOR PHRASE IS ALL CAPS, THAT IS SHOUTING. If one only capitalizes one or two WORDS, that is emphasis. As with speech, the difference between emphasis and shouting in written text is based to a large degree on whether it's being overused or not.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 19:51

"Written English" comes in many flavors: mainly formal and informal.

Capitalization rules are strictly adhered to in formal English writing. In informal written text, literary works can exercise certain license (see a related recent ELU post, Milnesian Capitals). Communications and conversational English is not that strictly governed by rules, but follows conventions instead. The Internet has its own etiquette & style-conventions.

A word in all uppercase is not used in formal written English.

It is a 'style' that is essentially seen in real-time electronic conversation ('chat') as a desperate measure to make oneself "heard" above the "din" (chat messages of others in the "room"). This practice is strongly discouraged and considered 'rude'.

  • Writing everything in all caps is rude, but emphasizing single words isn't really the same thing. Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 2:02

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