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Capital letters can be very silly when they show up in places they don't belong.

Capital letters can be very silly when they show up in places they don’t belong.

Do you Raise your Voice when Speaking selected words? No, people don’t do that, except perhaps when Preaching from a Pulpit. But too many people Do use random capitalization For No Reason — and that can make your brand or company look silly.

We all learned in grade school English class that a capital letter should be used to indicate a proper noun, to begin a sentence and to begin a complete sentence that follows a colon.

Later, when we learned the norms of email and social media, we knew to avoid using ALL CAPS because it was the typed equivalent of shouting.

Yet here we are at the corner of Crazy Capitalization and Grammar Street. We’re seeing random caps on websites, on social media, in marketing materials and advertisements. We assume it is an attempt to attract More Attention to a Company, product or service.

But to us it just looks gimmicky. Read this ad text from Wile E. Coyote’s favorite fictional company, Acme Rocket-Powered Products: “Acme’s new Rocket Powered roller skates are Guaranteed to help You catch Roadrunners.”

The silliness of the random capitalization makes it hard to take the company seriously. (Okay, maybe the silliness of our example contributed a little. Meep-meep!) The ad text could have used bold, italic or bold-italic type to emphasize selected words without mangling grammar rules.

When writing for marketing, PR or advertising:

DO follow the rules of grammar. Correctness lends credibility to your company, product or service. You can bend the rules from time to time, providing you know what the rule is and why you are choosing not to follow it in a particular instance.

DON’T resort to silly gimmicks. If you do, customers and prospects will question the truth and sincerity of the message – and by extension, the company behind it. Trust is crucial in business. Gimmicks are associated with trickery, schemes and ploys.

DO be clever if you’re also clear. Using proper grammar doesn’t have to make your message sound all buttoned up and stuffy. Grab attention by being funny, outrageous and clever – up to, but not past, the point where clarity suffers.