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Readability of text using all upper case letters

December 10 2009 | 1 comment
Categories: Labeling, Map Data

I was told somewhere along the way that it is easier for most people to read mixed case words as opposed to words in all upper case. Most maps that I look at use all upper case for street names. Could it be that mixed case is easier to read when it is in a sentence or paragraph like a serif font and that all upper case works fine for individual words on a map?

Thank you for your help.


Mapping Center Answer:

What you were told is generally correct, though typeface selection and character spacing make a big difference as well. 

One of the reasons you see a lot of uppercase street labels is because the data are old.  Back ~15-20 years ago many databases still did not differentiate case for text.  To help with that we created a set of tools to covert the uppercase text to proper case (not as simple for geographic data or abbreviations as the Proper() methods in many programming languages).  These are at:


It's because of the hull posted by Aileen Buckley on Dec 10 2009 4:06PM
The reason uppercase letters are harder to read is because there is no variation in the hull. I attached a graphic that I use to teach this concept. Note that the ascenders and descenders in the letters give us visual clues about the words. Uppercase letters have no ascenders and descenders and the hull that defines the extent of the letters forms a rectangle, no matter what the word is.

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